Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

14th Amendment: Why Birthright Citizenship Change 'Can't Be Done'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

14th Amendment: Why Birthright Citizenship Change 'Can't Be Done'

Article excerpt

A new amendment to address citizenship issues would be tough in today's polarized environment. Some say that legislation related to the 14th Amendment is the answer, but that would be hard, too.

"Birthright citizenship" - the policy of granting US citizenship to every child born on US soil - may be one of the hottest political issues of the summer. In recent weeks, some congressional Republicans have become increasingly vocal about their desire to deny such recognition to the children of illegal immigrants, saying it is a lure that draws foreigners to sneak into the country.

However, as a practical matter, changing this policy would be extremely difficult. That's because it is in the Constitution - or, rather, it is based on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment begins this way: "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."

Passage of a new constitutional amendment would require a two- thirds "aye" vote in the House and Senate, plus the approval of the legislatures of three-quarters of the 50 states. In today's polarized political environment, it is hard to envision that happening.

Some proponents of changing the citizenship rules argue that their purpose can be accomplished with legislation. That might be a little easier to get through Congress - but it would almost certainly be vetoed by President Obama while he remains in office. Even if a future GOP chief executive signed such a bill, it would face inevitable close federal court review.

"Politically it can't be done, and it is simply a distraction from seeking true immigration reform," argued Bill Ong Hing, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and supporter of birthright citizenship, in a recent conference call with reporters.

The issue itself is not a newcomer to Washington. Bills to deny citizenship to the children of parents in the US illegally have been introduced in Congress with regularity in recent years. …

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