Excerpted from "The Accidental Chief: The True Story of the 45th President", Random House 2021
On his Fox Business show, Lou Dobbs hyped a Rasmussen poll suggesting birthright citizenship should be revoked, saying, "61 percent say that a child born in the United States to a woman who is in this country illegally should not automatically become a citizen, so-called anchor babies." [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 5/10/2011]
New Year’s Day, 2017
The President-elect was watching Fox News, and the news was good.
“In a stunning victory for the tea party,” read the blonde anchor, “the newly ratified 28th Amendment takes effect today. We have more from correspondent Bristol Palin.”
The view switched to a remote shot, a stand-up in front of the White House. A young brunette, bundled up in a fur-trimmed parka, stood in front of the building he’d occupy in a matter of weeks. “From blonde to brunette,” he chuckled to himself, “that’s my kind of diversity.”
“Among the new laws taking effect today, there is considerable excitement among many Americans surrounding the newest amendment to the Constitution, what many are calling the ‘Anchor’s Away’ amendment.
“Foremost among its provisions, the removal of birthright citizenship. Starting today, those born to a non-citizen mother will not be considered citizens. In a move controversial to some on the left,” and with this she paused for just the briefest of sneers, “the provision has been made retroactive.”
He wondered privately if that bit had been a reach too far. Trouble was, his tea party base were wild about that very part. He couldn’t take that out, not and still get the massive turnout that had put him over the top. Even then, it had been a narrow thing, with Warren capturing just a sliver more of the popular vote and only losing in the electoral college.
Which meant the punditocracy was already comparing the situation to 2000. He doubted it would be the last time the press would say he reminded them of Bush.
But the courts were in a deferential mood these days, and an appeals court judge had declined to issue an injunction while the case wound its way to SCOTUS. Once there, few had any illusions about how the court would rule – Obama’d gotten the surprise of his life when the first batch of rulings that included Clinton on the court were released. Many were shocked at the 5-4 decisions that had her siding with Scalia.
“In many parts of the country,” the reporter added, becoming if possible ever more perkily enthused, “authorities have already run immigration checks and have compiled lists of people to be deported. These so-called ‘Day 1’ deportations are being hailed by many as a bold step to take back our nation.”
Oh, he thought, they’d taken it back all right. With the outgoing President doing little to campaign for his party’s nominee – many thought he seemed weary of politics, and who could blame him? – his own coattails had been especially long. With a comfortable Republican majority in the House, and the 50 Senate seats needed to let any tie be broken by his Vice-President, it was 2003 all over again. His boys were going to ride roughshod over Washington in a way that hadn’t been seen since Reagan.
Just then, there was a knock on the door of his study. Before he could answer, the door swung open. “Now that’s the last time that happens,” he thought to himself, preparing to reprimand the Secret Service agent stationed outside.
But the Secret Service man stayed outside, standing aside to let a small group of police enter. Their uniforms announced them as ICE: Immigrations and Custom Enforcement.
He rose from his chair, a tendril of worry creeping in to his mind. Before he could speak, one of the men harshly intoned, “Rick Santorum. I’m Inspector Nelson. We have a warrant for your arrest.”
For a moment, he was floored. Then he realized, it must be a joke. A prank, that had to be it. Something cooked up by his wife, or maybe by Bachmann’s staff. His veep-elect’s crew seemed to always have a little too much time on their hands. “Very funny, you guys had me going for a second there.”
“Its no joke,” Nelson said, as two of the other uniforms came around the desk. “Place your hands behind your back, sir, we’re taking you in to custody.”
In the most surreal moment of his life, he felt his arms yanked behind his back, and a set of cuffs quickly applied. If this is a joke, he thought, it just went too far, now it was just a matter of finding out who to fire.
“You’re under arrest for violation of federal immigration law, as you are in the country illegally.”
“Now just a goddamn minute, here, I like a joke, but you’re over the…”
“Sir,” Nelson barked, cutting him off. “Your maternal grandmother, our records show she emigrated from Ireland.”
“Yes, Nana came from County Cork. She was always proud of that,” he said, rather automatically. But as he did, the words trailed off, the breath seemingly sucked out of his lungs, as the truth hit him.
Nelson knew, from the look in his eye, that the man on the verge of the Presidency knew what was coming. Never the less, he had to say it, for the record. “She was never a citizen, sir. So under Amendment 28, your mother Catherine wasn’t, either.” His mother? She was 97, and in frail condition. Surely they wouldn’t dream of…
“Don’t worry, sir. We’re sending a medical team with the inspectors. She’ll be transported in the safest manner possible. Hopefully we can track down some family for her over there, but in any event rest assured their National Health Service will make sure she’s well cared for.”
Numb with shock, he felt one of the uniformed officers grab him by the shoulders. With a polite but firm shrug, he was forced to walk around the desk and towards the door.
“Now for you, things are a little different. Given your father’s status, you have options. We can deport you to Ireland or Italy, your choice.”