04/11/2011 02:07 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2011

Taking Aim at the Constitution Won't Make Us Safer

Suggesting that children born on American soil should be anything but American citizens, as some conservative Republicans are doing across the nation, is scary talk. Even scarier is news this week that US Senators are moving a bill to do just that.

By turning their talk into action this week, four Republican Senators have not just ramped up their assault on immigrants, but launched a direct attack on the Constitution. It is the latest evidence of the extremism that has gripped some conservatives who seem bent on punishing immigrants for their own political gain. Rather than appeasing Tea Party extremists and wealthy right wing donors, Republicans should get on board with the rational majority of Americans who want to see our immigration system fixed.

Undocumented immigrant workers are overwhelmingly law-abiding taxpayers, and not criminals or threats to our safety. They live and work in our communities, often taking jobs that most native-born Americans wouldn't want -- even in these tough times. In short, they contribute to our economy and are a vital part of our economic recovery. They shouldn't be left vulnerable to exploitation by those employers who seek to take advantage of their uncertain legal status, they should be welcomed and valued for their contributions to our economy and society.

By failing to fix the broken immigration system, Congress has, in effect, abdicated the job of managing immigration and dumped it into the laps of states. With no authority, resources or expertise to do the job, states are taking matters into their own hands and often with poor results. Local and already overburdened police officers shouldn't have to take on a job other than keeping us all safe and secure from crime. In addition, asking police officers to enforce harsh immigration checks, arrests and deportations not only takes them away from their job to protect citizens, but interferes with their ability to gain the trust they need from the community to track down criminals, and prevent crimes from happening in the first place.

In Arizona and elsewhere, this patchwork of flawed enforcement-only measures has only made matters worse by inadvertently costing citizens and legal residents to lose their jobs and pushing undocumented workers deeper into the shadows. This helps no one -- not American workers, not immigrants, not businesses that play by the rules and certainly not taxpayers who end up paying for an ineffective and wasteful enforcement system that squanders tax dollars on arresting janitors, farm workers and gardeners instead of focusing on stopping drug smugglers, gang members or other larger threats to our national security.

Although Tea Party conservatives portray themselves as strict adherents to the Constitution, they feel free to thumb their nose at the 14th Amendment when it comes to going after immigrants. This latest assault on immigrants taking place in the United States Senate of all places, and its flagrant disregard for the Constitution shows just how far anti-immigrant activists are prepared to reach.

Most people would agree that efforts to strip citizenship to children born in the U.S. cross the line of decency and have no place in our great national debate on immigration. Regardless, there can be no doubt that such a move has little, if anything, to do with safeguarding our country. Attacks on our rights, not to mention our Constitution, don't make us any safer or more secure; in fact, they run counter to just about everything we believe in this country. As a nation of immigrants, we should embrace the diversity that has always been a unique and irreplaceable source of our strength as a country.