History and ramifications of Amending the 14th Amendment
Washington D.C. (August 4, 2010) – The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is enshrined in U.S. history as the cornerstone of American civil rights, ensuring due process and equal protection under the law to all persons. Equally important is the Fourteenth Amendment’s affirmation that all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction are, in fact, U.S. citizens.
However, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, some politicians have begun to attack the 14th amendment and birthright citizenship without fully understanding the intent of the amendment and what tampering with birthright citizenship would mean for our country and its citizens.
Today, the Immigration Policy Center convened a teleconference to discuss the constitutional and legal impact of repealing the 14th amendments, as well as its historical significance to Asian and African-American communities.
“Repealing birthright citizenship does nothing to fix the underlying problems with the immigration system, said Michele Waslin, moderator and a Senior Policy Analyst with the Immigration Policy Center. “It does not address the reasons people come here illegally in the first place; it does not reduce the number of undocumented immigrants-in fact, it increases the number because children will be born with no legal status.”
Elizabeth Wydra, Chief Counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center, said that to read the Amendment’s citizenship clause narrowly to allow discrimination against U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants or non-citizens is “simply wrong as a matter of constitutional text and history.”
“Those who want to repeal the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal citizenship threaten core constitutional values and ignore the reasons why the framers of the Amendment enshrined birthright citizenship in the Constitution in the first place,” said Wydra. “Never before have ‘We the People’ amended our Constitution to make it less egalitarian.”
Bill Hing, Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco explains that the Constitution can only be amended in two ways. The first is for a bill to pass both houses of Congress, by a two-thirds majority.
“Good luck with that, especially in this partisan environment,” said Hing. “The second method requires that a constitutional convention be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the states.
“Any amendments adopted would then be sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures,” he added. “This route has never been taken. It can’t be a serious proposal because it can’t be done politically and is simply a distraction from true immigration reform.”
Attorney Margaret Stock added that an attempt to solved the nations immigration problems by changing the birthright citizenship rule is going to make those problems worse.
“It’s going to impose significant administrative and legal burdens on every American while depriving the United States of the significant benefits gained from birthright citizens,” said Stock.
Responding to specific proposals by Senator Lindsey Graham, Eric Ward, National Field Director of the Center for New Community, said “Graham’s action rekindles the fervor for dismantling a cornerstone of rights won by African Americans in the post-Civil War era.”
“Passage and implementation of Graham’s proposal would require eviscerating the Fourteenth Amendment, a question of insurmountable import to black people whose citizenship rights have historically been guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment,” said Ward. “While people of good conscience may reasonably disagree over the nation’s immigration policies, efforts to tamper with the Fourteenth Amendment in order to control immigration must be definitively rejected.”
To access a recording of the briefing or resources on birthright citizenship, see: Defending the Fourteenth Amendment (IPC Resource Page, August 2010).