No crime to be born in the U.S.A.

I’ve been hearing from a lot of conservatives who are really angry, and I don’t blame them.

There is a special acre of hell on Earth when you get lumped with people who claim to be just like you but then say things that never would come out of your mouth.

Take “anchor babies,” for example, the epithet of choice these days to describe children born in America to undocumented immigrants. If you’re a conservative who really believes in the inherent sacredness of a child’s life — and there are many — this accelerating attack on babies and the mothers who give birth to them has got to be feeling increasingly icky.

There you are, an avowed champion of the right to be born. And there they are, calling for the banishment of an entire population of babies whose only crime was to be born.

“This isn’t about the babies,” some insist. “It’s about their parents.”

If that’s still your battle cry, you should know this: You’re losing ground with a number of fellow conservatives.

Now that the white heat of immigration reform is threatening to harm innocent children, many hard-liners are starting to wriggle and squirm. And yell — at people like me, who feel the need to point out that punishing entire families because a parent has no green card makes for a lousy version of America. Especially when you start referring to babies as things that can be thrown overboard.

“Quit lumping us all together,” many said to me after I wrote a column asking how supposedly pro-life Americans could support dumping misplaced rage on innocent children. “We’re not all alike.”

Fair enough. I do want to mention, however, that an awful lot of the messages had a lot in common.

“What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” many asked.

Look, more than 11 million immigrants live in daily fear that their families’ lives will be shattered if one of the parents is pulled over for a traffic violation. It’s time to find a way for the vast majority who pose no physical danger to this country to earn their way to citizenship.

I also get a lot of messages that claim either (a) immigrants are really lazy or (b) immigrants are trying to steal all our jobs. Well, jeez, which is it?

There’s also a lot of bragging about ancestral immigrants who came here legally. Maybe so, but do remember: We hated them, too. And every group of legal immigrants hated the next batch. It’s the American way.

To all of you conservatives who insist you don’t want to deport these babies, I say: That’s great. Why aren’t you speaking out?

So, dear conservatives, quit yelling at me and call your local right-to-life chapter and demand it take a stand on behalf of these children. Fire up your computer and send an e-mail to those elected officials who think it’s OK to treat some children born in America as discardable.

As for the proposal to change the 14th Amendment: Do you know how long it takes to change the Constitution in this country? Hint: Not in time for the midterm elections.

Here’s something else to remember: Not every child born here to immigrants is still a baby. I’ve met dozens of them who’ve lived in America for years. This is the only country they know. They’re smart and full of dreams and the ambition to make them real.

Their daily lives unfold in America, where some of their fellow Americans depict them as something other than human. The bad news: These kids hear it. The worse news: They get it.

“I love this country,” one Ohio high school student told me, with tears streaming down her face. “But my country doesn’t love me.”

Tell her it’s not about her; it’s about her parents. Surely, that will make her feel better.

Connie Schultz is a columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.