August 3rd, 2010
01:09 PM ET
4 years ago

Top Senate Republican open to examining birthright citizenship

Washington (CNN) – As the debate over immigration rages on in advance of this year's midterm elections, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has joined other prominent GOP senators in suggesting that so-called "birthright citizenship" be given a closer look in Capitol Hill hearings.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in the wake of the Civil War, provides in part 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." The provision has the effect of granting "birthright" citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. - even if both of the person's parents are in the country illegally.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told The Hill newspaper that he thinks the constitutional provision merits closer scrutiny "'I think we ought to take a look at it – hold hearings, listen to the experts on it.'"

McConnell also told the newspaper, "'I haven't made a final decision about it, but that's something that we clearly need to look at. Regardless of how you feel about the various aspects of immigration reform, I don't think anybody thinks that's something they're comfortable with.'"

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain told CNN Tuesday he supports the "concept of holding hearings" on the matter but wouldn't articulate his position on whether the 14th Amendment should be changed.

Updated after the jump with a statement from Sen. McCain.


McCain is up for re-election in November and faces a primary challenger who has sought to make immigration and border security issues in the GOP contest. In recent months, McCain has been joined by his fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl in highlighting the need for more secure borders.

Speaking Sunday to CBS, Kyl, who is McConnell's top lieutenant, also expressed a willingness to hold hearings about birthright citizenship.

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

Kyl also said Sunday that fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had broached the issue of birthright citizenship. "And what I suggested to him was that we should hold some hearings and hear first from the constitutional experts to at least tell us what the state of the law on that proposition is."

Commenting on a federal court's decision to block a key provision of Arizona's controversial immigration law, Sen. Graham said last week that he thought the concept of birthright citizenship was "a mistake."

Graham, who has been a key Republican negotiator on immigration reform, said that in addition to securing the borders, developing a comprehensive immigration policy should include taking a second look at granting citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants.

"I may introduce a constitutional amendment that changes the rules if you have a child here," Graham said in a Fox News Channel interview on July 28. "Birthright citizenship I think is a mistake, that we should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child's automatically not a citizen."

Graham added that the availability of birthright citizenship "attracts people here for all the wrong reasons."

Related video: Does the 14th Amendment reward undocumented immigrants?

Ignited by the passage of Arizona's immigration law, the issue of immigration reform has flared up as a political issue during this midterm election year. Graham, who was the Republican linchpin in negotiations on both an immigration bill and a climate bill, withdrew from bipartisan negotiations on the climate bill after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled that he would put an immigration bill on the Senate's agenda before year's end.

UPDATE 4:10 p.m. ET: Sen. John McCain released a statement Tuesday afternoon:

“Congressional hearings are always warranted when members of Congress raise the issue of amending our Constitution. Our Founding Fathers intentionally made the process of amending our Constitution extremely difficult. I believe that the Constitution is a strong, complete and carefully crafted document that has successfully governed our nation for centuries and any proposal to amend the Constitution should receive extensive and thoughtful consideration. Immediate and full implementation of the McCain-Kyl 10-Point Border Security plan will assist in addressing concerns associated with this issue," McCain said.

–CNN Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar contributed to this report.


Filed under: Immigration • John McCain • Jon Kyl • Lindsey Graham • Mitch McConnell • Popular Posts
soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. Seth

    It is getting to the point where every time a Republican politician opens their mouth I vomit just a little bit in the back of my throat.

    August 3, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  2. Katie B in NC

    I don't get these GOP/Tea Party folks. They're all for "defending" the Constitution one minute and wanting to change it the next. I guess they only want to defend the parts they like.

    August 3, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  3. ja

    these good ole boys need to study something else

    August 3, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  4. George Chidi

    This Conservative attack on the Constitution requires open, full-throated confrontation. So-called "anchor babies" are citizens. Period. The 14th Amendment gives citizenship to all who are born here. It is unambiguous. This Constitutional law is part of what makes America special and distinguishes us from the rest of the world. You want to fight illegal immigration? Fine. But stay away from these children, who are, like it or not, your countrymen.

    Do not claim a love of the Constitution while seeking to undermine it. Honest men will call you liars.

    August 3, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  5. JT

    Let's first investigate the great OHHHH and see if he has a right to even be here!!! THEN you can tackle the OTHER illegals.

    August 3, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  6. Jeffrey

    The constitution is a right for every American Citizens.
    If the mother is not an American Citizen, the rights, given in the consitution for American Citizens, should not be given to her and her child.

    Now, why just the mother? Well, with the father, any shmoe can claim to be the father and probably is an American Citizen (meaning he Lies). Doing DNA testing would be the only qualifier for the father to prove his new-born baby has rights as an American Citizen. However, doing DNA testing will cost money and who's going to pay for it?

    August 3, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  7. Tony on the River

    Mr. McConnell, what about Corporate Sponsorship Immigration? These are jobs that can actually support a family.

    August 3, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  8. anthony

    Let us end birthright citizenship for all illegal immigrants- including the Mayflower Pilgrims. The original residents of America, the Indians, would support this proposal.

    August 3, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  9. Earl Fey

    Is Obama a citizen, Christian, Real American? Rebubs say NO NO NO
    Thet also cannot say yes especially when the facts and coutts say different.

    August 3, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  10. DENNA

    That's fine. First let's do the Rethuglican's birth certificates first. In fact, let's take it back to their ancestors too. I say that if they are not Native Americans and don't have any Native American blood, then they are here illegally and should be sent back to the country of their family's origin. That goes for anyone whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Doesn't that just sound crazy? Well, so does this.

    August 3, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  11. Lisa in FL

    Good. Another nail in the dopes of nope's coffin. The GOP is the Tea Party. Good Luck winning national elections on this platform guys. We are watching the demise of what was once the Republican party.

    August 3, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  12. Ben in Texas

    The next time Mitch the Twitch spouts off about the Constitution, I hope someone reminds him that the 14th Amendment is part of that Constitution. He's like every other Repugnant politician, giving lip service to the supreme law of the land, and at the same time picking and choosing which parts he wants to obey.

    This provision of the Constitution was established to ensure that former slaves and their descendants were considered American citizens. If it is changed, then, theoretically, all those folks descended from slaves would be illegal aliens and would have to apply for citizenship. In fact, it would put the citizenship of every American in doubt, since a single ancestor who was not a naturalized citizen could mean that all his descendants were also illegal.

    August 3, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  13. Earl Fey

    What Part of "Born" do you not understand. If an expert claims he needs to explain what that word means he is no expert

    August 3, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  14. Joe

    Clearly this provision is being abused by people who come here specifically to have a baby so that they have a toe hold in the U.S. How else can you stop this than by changing the rules? A baby born to illegal immigrants should not become a citizen until his/her parents have been legally naturalized, or until that child turns 21 and makes formal application for citizenship.

    August 3, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  15. Beverly - NYC

    Does this rule cover Americans born abroad like John McCain who was born in Panama. Let me guess, the proposed ratification would cover those who don't look like Senator Kyl and can easily be identified as foreign. Does the word Aparthied mean anything the members of Congress.

    August 3, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. Squiggs

    People are losing their homes. Peolpe are out of work. People cannot send their kids to decent schools and these GOP morons want to spend time, money and energy on discussing wheather or not people born on American soil should get automatic citizenship. This is the group most Americans want to give power back to. WE will get what we deserve if we put these people back in power. They will undoubtly give this more consideration than they gave extending unemployment benefite to millions who lost their jobs and needed to eat and keep their homes. Are we such an uneducated bunch of people that we can't see these people for what they are?

    August 3, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  17. Rosslaw

    You know, if the Republithugs wanted to show that they had real cojones they would hold hearings on simply killing the children. I'm sure glad we have protectors of the Constitution like Mitch McConnell (whom I always thought looked more like a beached squid than an American), who stand up for the Constitution except for those inconvenient parts that they don't like this election cycle.

    August 3, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  18. TM

    No Senator, you can not hold hearings, or pass resolutions about this. If you don't like the 14th Amendment then get 2/3 of Congress to agree with you and pass an Amendment to alter the Constitution, then get the 2/3 of the Sates to ratify it. If you're not willing to obey the Constitution, as you have repeatedly SWORN TO DO, then please resign in favor of someone who will honor their sworn oath to "support, protect, and defend" the Constitution.

    August 3, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  19. Logan in IA

    Are you kidding me? Republicans and tea party members are shouting at "liberals" about destroying the country they love so dearly, yet these same people want to start removing things from the constitution?! I don't get it. Seriously, republicans are the dumbest, most ignorant, hypocritical, selfish humans I have ever seen in my life.

    August 3, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  20. neb

    So, Repubs can change the 14th Amend to suit their needs, but when anyone comes close to the 2nd they start yelling how holy the constitution is.

    August 3, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. NAM VET

    The senator has a valid point. Why would we want to justify anyones
    right to something his parents obviously had no moral right to do.
    Entering our country against the law of the land. On the other hand
    we demand other countries ie. Iraq and afganistion to have a rule
    of law established. We have a rule of law but do not enforce it if
    does not meet the agendas of a corrupt adminsistration. food
    for thought!

    August 3, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  22. Donkey Party

    Which party wants to take away your rights and freedoms? Which party wants to change the Constitution to suit their backward ideological beliefs? The GOP and their followers are the lowest form of scum on the planet. I hope they all perish in the worst possible ways imaginable.

    August 3, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
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