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Top GOP Senators Endorse Ending Birthright Citizenship

August 3, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

In the debate over immigration reform, Republicans have generally stuck to a few basic principles over the years. Improve enforcement of the borders, deport all undocumented immigrants, and refocus the immigration system to prioritize people with needed skills. But recently, Republicans in Congress have been moving more and more solidly behind a more radical idea — denying legal citizenship status to the children who are born in the U.S. of undocumented immigrants.

Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC], one of the only Republicans who has engaged with Democrats in comprehensive immigration reform talks, recently came out in support of repealing birthright citizenship protections. “People come here to have babies," Graham said last week in an interview with Fox News. “They come here to drop a child." Graham’s endorsement of repealing birthright citizenship was quickly followed up by the two highest ranking Republicans in the Senate. Minority Whip Sen. Jon Kyl [R, AZ] endorsed the idea on Sunday and Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY] called for hearing on the issue the next day. UPDATE: Arizona’s other senator, John McCain®, told TPM today that he is also supportive of holding hearing on ending birthright citizenship. “You’re changing the constitution of the United States,” McCain said. “I support the concept of holding hearings.”

In the House, 94 Republicans, more than half of the House Republican Caucus, have signed on as co-sponsors to the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009, which states that only children who have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, a legal permanent resident, or an undocumented immigrant serving in the military can be granted citizenship.

It’s pretty clear that repealing birthright citizenship is quickly moving from a fringe cause supported by only the most anti-immigration aspects of the Republican party to a basic plank of the party’s platform with support from some of its most centrist members. But no matter how much support for the repeal grows among Republicans, they are always going to face one huge problem with getting the repeal to take effect — the Constitution of the United States.

The 14th Amendment states that “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.” You can be sure that if the Birthright Citizenship Act is ever passed into law, it will be challenged as unconstitutional. The question would then be, are undocumented immigrants “subject to the jurisdiction” of the U.S.? There is big split here among interpreters of the law. Opponents of birthright citizenship argue that children of undocumented immigrants are, by their nature, not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. They cite Supreme Court precedent from the Slaughterhouse Cases that “the phrase ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ was intended to exclude from its operation children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign states, born within the United States.” However, supporters of birthright citizenship point to the fact that children of undocumented immigrants are under the jurisdiction of U.S. law while in the U.S. “If they commit a crime, they’re subject to the jurisdiction of the courts,” argues Michele Walsin of the American Immigration Council.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has already ruled, in the 1897 United States v. Wong Kim Ark case, that the 14th amendment gants citizenship to most people born on U.S. soil, even to foreigners. Here’s how the opinion is described on Wikipedia:

In a 6-2 decision, the Court held that under the Fourteenth Amendment, a child born in the United States of parents of foreign descent who, at the time of the child’s birth are subjects of a foreign power but who have a permanent domicile and residence in the United States and are carrying on business in the United States, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under a foreign power, and are not members of foreign forces in hostile occupation of United States territory, becomes a citizen of the United States at the time of birth.

If the law were passed and then ruled unconstitutional, the next option for the Republicans would be to try to pass a constitutional amendment repealing the citizenship clause of the 14th amendment. But that’s just unrealistic. It takes a 23rds vote in both the Senate and the House and then ratification of 3/4ths of the individual states to have a constitutional amendment take effect.

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  • ExGOP 08/03/2010 2:41pm





  • Comm_reply
    smokestack 08/03/2010 6:53pm
    Link Reply
    + -1

    Have already signed the petition and passed it on to others but I question your user ID. In my opinion, the failure to pass the last UI extension in a timely manner was the fault of both parties and we were unfortunate enough to get caught up in the political warfare. They all knew that it would eventually pass but due to their own selfishness to prove a political point we became the pawns in their game of tug and pull. If the Dems continue to hold the majority in the House and Senate after November we will lose on the immigration issues which will hurt all of us. Solve the immigration problem without amnesty and you will see that our states and government will have the extra money they need and alot of unemployed people would have a job to go to.

  • Comm_reply
    BamaLady 08/04/2010 3:01am

    …and if the Republicans hold the majority in the House & Senate after November then we can forget about ever getting another extension. The “Dems” are the only reason we have one now! Republicans are all for tax breaks for the rich and funding wars but when it comes to helping those most in need they decided to become “fiscally responsible”. The war in Iraq has cost the American tax payers nearly a trillion dollars, yet the Republicans didn’t want to cough up the money to help the unemployed, many of whom are our vets! Unemployment extensions have always been emergency spending. The Republicans wanted to use stimulus money that had been set aside for other things, the Democrats didn’t. Republicans complained about leaving debt for our grandchildren while children of today were going hungry. They complained that it would hurt our economy even though multiple economists and deficit watchdog groups stated just the opposite. I pray that every one of them up for election is voted out.

  • Comm_reply
    ExGOP 08/04/2010 4:53am

    Well said!

  • Comm_reply
    ExGOP 08/04/2010 6:26am

    There are many factors as to why America is losing jobs. One major factor is American corporations outsourcing our jobs to other countries. Your ridicules statements make no sense. The immigration issue will not solve the lack of American jobs problem. America will not loose the immigration issue with “either” party in power; because the immigration issue is “currently” in the hands of the Courts. FYI … McCain (AZ-R) is against what the governor of Arizona has done in regards to immigration.

    In my opinion, it was the “Party of No” a.k.a. the Repubs who caused the recent delay in “emergency” UI.

    And what’s wrong with my user ID? At least it’s the truth. I’m not obsessively changing my user ID like someone on this blog who’s on a quest to sway (unsuccessfully) the American Unemployed over to the dark side (the GOP). I question you signing the “help the 99er petition”. I also question your user ID. What the hell are you implying … smoking too much crack?

  • Comm_reply
    DeborahJBrown 08/06/2010 5:19am

    I am not sure what you think that the Democrats did to hold up the unemployment extensions but from what I read ALL the “no” votes to legislation on unemployment extensions came from the Republican party. I understand you may have an extreme loyalty to your political party and that’s really very sweet. I’ve been a registered Republican since 1972 but Republicans absolutely were fully responsible for holding up progress in Congress on this issue. On the immigration issue, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Unfortunately when the Constitution was written our forefathers did not anticipate the problems we have today with illegals in our country intentionally giving birth to gain “rights”. It’s not a matter of which party is right or wrong, it’s about “interpretation” of the Constitution’s intent and amending. This is no simple task.

  • smokestack 08/04/2010 8:21am

    ExGop- Nothing wrong with your user ID – just ?‘d the ex part. Look, I’m in the same boat your in. I’ve worked in const. all my life and was laid off last year collecting UI for the first time. I’m a white 60 yr. old female who is scared to death about what the future holds, not only for myself, but for all of us including the 99ers. Back in March I started e-mailing every politician I could, it didn’t matter what party. Believe it or not, I did get some responses which indicated that the Rep’s agreed the extension was needed but wanted it paid for using existing stimulus money. Would the EUC have come sooner if the Dems agreed to this, I don’t know, but I do honestly believe that illegal immigrants are the reason our pay scale has gotten so low and that alot of us have not been able to find work. Just have many ?‘s. Right now I don’t have a party cause I don’t know who to believe.

  • Kerlynne 08/04/2010 11:57am

    Though I feel that the issue of immigration is an issue effecting unemployment as many states still offer welfare, food stamps etc that drain the budget.A friend in Texas shares reports with me of border patrol officer dying and how she witnesses a woman that had 6 children in tow and she was pregnet with the 7th standing in line for welfare and she knows she isn’t a citizen but the children are. Maybe we can build the great wall of the Rio grande and make US jobs that way?? I have to agree with smokestack that illegal immigrants do contribute in a big way to the economy of the usa. We need to look at his more closely and quickly.

  • ExGOP 08/04/2010 1:32pm

    BREAKING NEWS (MSNBC) – Senator Stabenow introduces a bill for the 99ers “The Americans Want to Work Act”. She say’s to contact our local reps to request that they support this bill!

    Thank you Senator for stepping up for the 99ers!

  • smokestack 08/04/2010 3:17pm

    I just watched the video on MSNBC about the legislation “The Americans want to work act”. Correct me if I am wrong but I get the impression that this new bill won’t be acted on until after the August break. She also hinted that the republicans had “something” in the works but that also would not happen until they returned in September. This could be a good thing and maybe just for once we will have some bargaining power. We all need to start calling, writing, e-mailing, whatever it takes to every politician in every state and let them know that our votes in November will be directly influenced by their actions in this matter. I’m starting tonight and I’m not stopping until they return from vacation. There is no time left for the 99ers and the rest of us are dead in the water come the end of November. And in the mean time I wish all of you the best of luck in finding employment and some kind of satisfaction knowing that some are trying to help.

  • beenblue 08/04/2010 5:08pm

    The company`s that hire the illegal`s, keep the floodgates open!! If their were no jobs for them, it would create jobs for us, kind of like a hotel “NO VACANCY” YOU MOVE ON.(I hear China is hiring cheap labor.)I also think we should boycott company`s that took our jobs overseas for slave labor, and tax breaks, and gave us the middle finger in return for our devotion to them. I also don`t want to learn Spanish as a hiring plus, while I live in America, and our language is English, the language problem should not be my problem.

  • smokestack 08/04/2010 6:36pm

    Agree with you totally beenblue. From 2006 to 2009 I worked in several of the chemical plants and refineries in Texas and Louisiana. I witnessed first hand how good qualified carpenters, fitters, welders, etc who were making an average of 25 to 30 dollars an hour being terminated and replaced with mostly Latinos at 10 dollars an hour. The people that they did keep were told outright that their hourly pay was going to be lowered 30%, there would be no more per deim, and that if they didn’t like it feel free to leave cause there were thousands of people that would work for less. The people that were let go were honest hard working people that had pride in what they had accomplished and had worked all their life to get to a comfortable wage. Sadly most of them are still unemployed. It’s getting so bad out there that even those that are still working are worried about what tomorrow will bring. Jobs need to stay here in this country and legal citizens should be working, not illegals.

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