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Illegal Immigration Foes Focus on 14th Amendment 'Citizenship Clause'

4 years ago
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A fourth senior Republican senator has called for a review of the 14th Amendment's Citizenship Clause as it pertains to children born to illegal immigrants in the United States.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Tuesday said he supports Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who announced last week that he is considering introducing an amendment that would deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants.

"We should change our Constitution and say that if you come here illegally and have a child, that child is automatically not a citizen," Graham said on Greta Van Susteren's show on Fox. "People come here to have babies. It's called drop and leave. To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, they have a child and that child is automatically an American citizen. That shouldn't be the case."

Coburn echoed those sentiments Tuesday, saying that the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868 to prevent the disenfranchisement of recently freed slaves, and it was not meant to guarantee citizenship to unlawful immigrants.

"There was never an intent by our founders that just because you were here and you had a child born here and you were here not as a resident that your child would become a citizen," Coburn said. "I think we need to look at it."

He added that the author of the Citizenship Clause, Sen. Jacob Howard of Michigan, said that the clause was not meant for illegal immigrants and "will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens . . . "

Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have also called for hearings to look into the clause.

"The 14th Amendment [has been] interpreted to provide that if you are born in the United States, you are a citizen no matter what," Kyl said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"So the question is, if both parents are here illegally," Kyl said, "should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?"

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in his daily briefing Tuesday, accused McConnell of political posturing. Recently, McConnell made the same accusation of political posturing against President Barack Obama for challenging the Arizona immigration law.

"I don't know if that was based on 2010 or 2012 [elections]," Gibbs said. "But my hunch is it is based purely on politics."

Lizette J. Olmos, communications director for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said immigration reform is needed, but not at the expense of the 14th Amendment.

"We definitely don't agree" with the GOP senators, Olmos said. "Calling for reform is not solving the problem. We don't support breaking the law, but we need to address the situation of millions of people."

Coburn acknowledged that while hearings to look into the issue are necessary, actually amending the Constitution is a whole other matter.

"The founders made it very difficult to change the Constitution, and I think if we solve some of these other problems that's not a big issue," Coburn said. "If in fact you have your borders controlled, then it's not an issue. So it all goes back to the federal government's responsibility to control the borders."

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