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14th Amendment Challenges Citizenship

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Leanna Boyd

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Since its inauguration into the Constitution in 1866, the 14th amendment has been quite clear about what a U.S. citizen is.  For those who need a refresher, here it is: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

It seems fairly straightforward, but the 14th amendment, along with various immigration laws that further clarify citizenship privileges, has been under attack since the new year began.

Several U.S. senators, as well as lawmakers in Arizona, have taken it upon themselves to solve the “problem” of illegal immigration by denying citizenship to the children of undocumented workers. This unprecedented attack upon innocent children must be stopped.

Even the rhetoric used by these politicians shows how absurd their reasoning is.

According to Arizona Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, who filed the Arizona bill last week, “The result of [automatic citizenship] is they immediately acquire the right to full benefits, everything from welfare to cheese, which increases the costs to the states. And beyond that, it’s irresponsible and foolish to bestow citizenship based upon one’s GPS location at birth.”

Cheese?  We’re now begrudging cheese to immigrants?

The attack on citizenship rights is occurring on several fronts.  Here’s a quick roundup of what’s happening:

    • On Jan. 27, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and David Vitter (R-La.), introduced a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the children of illegal immigrants from gaining automatic U.S. citizenship unless certain conditions are met, namely that one parent must be a U.S. citizen, a legal immigrant, or an active member of the Armed Forces.  However, critics are doubtful that the amendment would be successful, as it would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress and ratified by three-quarters of the state legislatures.
    • On the same day, the Arizona legislature–known for its extreme stance regarding illegal immigration, proposed a bill that challenges automatic U.S. citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.  According to Rep. Kavanagh, the bill’s sponsor, the goal is to bring the dispute to the courts, with the hope that they would rule that a child born in the U.S. is a citizen only if either parent is a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant.
    • Finally, on January 5, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) proposed a change in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA), also known as the McCarran-Walter Act. Like the other bills, King’s proposed bill focuses on the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction of,” and argues that illegal immigrants are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction and, therefore, should bot be automatically granted citizenship.

In an interview with CNN’s T.J. Holmes, Rep. King discussed why he decided to introduce the bill, focusing mostly on women who cross the border to have “anchor” babies in the U.S. Basically, he stated that the U.S. should not allow “anchor” babies to become citizens because it could potentially prompt other illegal immigrants to attempt to come and have children to stay in the U.S.

The idea that a person can be denied citizenship based solely on their parents immigration status is wrong. America was founded on immigrants coming here and having their children here so that they could have the opportunity to rise above the constraints that held them down in their home country.

There is no need for the Constitution or for established immigration law to be altered so drastically when its definition was perfectly fine to begin with. Even if a child’s parents were legal or illegal, they deserve to have the opportunity to succeed and contribute to the society they were born in.

Some may argue the point that allowing illegal parents’ children to become citizens would fuel the rising problem of illegal immigration. They believe that changing the definition of a citizen so that illegal immigrants’ children would not be considered citizens would create less of an incentive for them to come in the first place.

This new legislation would not stem the tide of immigration.  As long as other countries remain war-torn, poverty stricken, and lacking in opportunities, people will continue to come to the United States, legally and otherwise.

Instead of changing the Constitution, Congress and the states could implement policies that would maintain border security to help address the problem of rising illegal immigration. Changing the Constitution requires both time and money which, frankly, the government has little of. Instead of bickering about words on a document, the federal and state governments could be taking action to prevent illegal immigration in the first place and leave children who were born U.S. citizens alone.

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