On Thursday morning, early voters in Johnson City arrived at the Princeton Arts Center to cast their votes in the heated race many consider to be a referendum on the policies of President Donald Trump.
Immigration was on most voters’ minds after the president recently claimed the ability to end birthright citizenship guaranteed by the 14th Amendment with an executive order and ordered thousands of armed military personnel to the border to stop what the U.N. estimates to be more than 7,000 Central American migrants and refugees traveling up the isthmus to seek asylum in the United States.
Local resident Bobby Black, 70, said he is voting for Bredesen due to Blackburn’s “negative” campaign and her immigration policies, which align with that of the president’s. He called the two Republicans’ hardline anti-immigration stances and attacks on the 14th Amendment — which states that all persons born in the United States are citizens — “ridiculous.”
“When you accept office, you accept the responsibility to maintain the Constitution – a tried-and-true document. When you suddenly, out of left field, start to change it to suit a certain demographic, that splits the country,” he said. “Who can be for that? We have a process.”
Black said he believes Republican efforts to take more hardline anti-immigration stances ahead of the midterms is a cynical campaign tactic to appeal to xenophobia, and immigration was one of the issues that brought him out to vote.
“I don’t feel that we have come this far to let our legacy be negativity and hate,” he said.
Though none of the Blackburn voters who spoke to the Johnson City Press Thursday explicitly expressed support for repealing the 14th Amendment, their views on immigration policies were quite the opposite of Black’s.
“I don’t have an opinion on the 14th Amendment as much as I do that people should lawfully come into the country. I don’t try to overblow it like a lot of people who say they’re all bad, but if you have 1,000 people and one of them is bad, they should all be vetted to keep that one out,” John Hatcher, 44, said, adding that he believes immigration is “definitely a hot-button issue” during this election cycle.
It was certainly a hot-button issue for other Blackburn voters, too.
“It’s a group of illegal aliens. There is a way to legitimately enter this country as an alien — to get the green card and go through the process — but these people are basically taking the law into their own hands and saying, ‘I’m not doing that,’” Scott Tester, 66, said of the migrant exodus of political and economic refugees.
While Tester said he thought Bredesen “was a good governor,” he thinks he would be beholden to Democrats’ policies on immigration and said he believes the 14th Amendment could be abused by some immigrants.
“If illegals come across with children, no job or way of supporting themselves, and yet, with that birthright to that child, they’re guaranteed health care, we end up paying for it,” he said of the 14th Amendment. “I don’t want to seem too hard-hearted.”
His mother-in-law and fellow Blackburn voter Clemeth Morrison, 84, chimed in. “But a little bit (hard-hearted),” she laughed.