August 13th, 2010
02:38 PM ET
4 years ago

White House: 14th Amendment change 'just wrong'

'Any talk of amending the Constitution is just wrong,' Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said regarding the 14th amendment debate.
'Any talk of amending the Constitution is just wrong,' Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said regarding the 14th amendment debate.

(CNN) - The White House is weighing in on the recent call from some top Republicans to change a potion of the constitution that grants automatic citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born in the United States, calling the suggestion "just wrong."

"I am surprised, to say the least, that discussion is being had about amending the United States Constitution before we even get to the table on amending the statutes that actually carry out immigration policy," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters Friday. "I think that's where the action needs to be. And any talk of amending the Constitution is just wrong."

Napolitano's comments come in response to suggestions from several leading GOP senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 2008 presidential nominee John McCain, and Lindsay Graham that the part of the 14th Amendment which allows for birthright citizenship should be studied more closely.


"I'm looking at the laws that exist and see if it makes sense today," Graham said on Fox News last week. "You've got the other problem, where thousands of people are coming across the Arizona/Texas border for the express purpose of having a child in an American hospital so that child will become an American citizen, and they broke the law to get there."

McConnell and McCain have both called for congressional hearings into the subject.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also made clear Friday President Obama is against any moves to alter the provision.

"The president and Secretary Napolitano agree on this," said Gibbs. "The 14th Amendment enshrines - and has for more than 150 years - equal protection and due process, two things that we don't think need to be tampered with."

"It is always interesting…that those that have, with steadfast fidelity, talked about not tampering with our Constitution, have now swerved to pick the 14th Amendment as the best place to address comprehensive immigration reform," added Gibbs. "It is - it's rich in its irony."

The Reconstruction-era 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection of law and defines who is a U.S. citizen. Critics of illegal immigration have long accused migrants – particularly those coming from Mexico or Latin American countries – of giving birth to children in the United States in hopes that their babies' citizenship will keep them in the country as well as to avail their children of the more generous benefits of the wealthier United States.

The amendment has been cited as the foundation of U.S. civil rights law in cases ranging from Brown v. Board of Education to last week's decision that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage in California. Changing it would require a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress and the approval of three-quarters of state legislatures.

According to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll out Wednesday, 49 percent of Americans are in favor of changing the relevant portion of the 14th Amendment while 51 percent oppose doing so.


Filed under: GOP • issues • Janet Napolitano • White House
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. shadysider

    Even RedState acknowledges this won't happen.

    August 13, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  2. BillE

    What happened to the defenders of the constitution. All of a sudden they want to change it to suit them when all along they've been bashing Obama for being a socialist. So let me see if I have this right. It's wrong for Obama but ok for the party of no.

    August 13, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  3. Granger

    "...just wrong..." because then we couldn't rein in all the illegal's votes for the Kenyan! This country cannot afford to support any more illegals, their kids, or their existence...get their butts back in mexico

    August 13, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Enough is enough....The ones of us who are still lucky enough to have a job are sick and tired of all the give away programs....We can barely take care of our own.....Tell EVERYONE to stay home and lets help Americans......

    August 13, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  5. Sagebrush Shorty

    Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is nothing but another political hack saying whatever her boss wants. Of course the Constitution needs to be changed, but don't hold your breath waiting for this Administration to do something that benefits law-abiding American taxpayers.

    August 13, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  6. GI Joe

    If Jesus was born in Arizona they'd deny him citizenship.

    Dang right-wing family values "mistress lovin' " bigots.

    August 13, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  7. sonny chapman

    Why are Conservatives so scared that someone might get one little scrap from them? Such greed is a sickness & runs contrary to message of Jesus: the Father is generous to all of his children Matthew 7,7.

    August 13, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  8. Bob in PA

    Canada got fed up with what this did to their country and put a stop to it. At what point in the dream will we wake up ? A slight change to the wording would be more than sufficient. That a child born to any person who at the time of birth is legally in the country.

    August 13, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  9. November

    The White House is "just wrong". We have to get illegal immigration under control. We have a process to follow for legal immigration. If illegal immigration is supposed to be tolerated (per the WH) then just make it all legal. But don't continue to have laws and refuse to enforce them. Weak!

    August 13, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  10. Marvin

    It is really funny and ironic that all the tea baggers and republicans are all for changing the constitution (when convenient for them and the White America the wish they had). Tell them that the second amendment and guns rights law is outdated and no longer serves or suits the modern times, and they will tell you that you a out of your mind for tryingb to mess with the beloved constitution. Pretty convenient ha!!!!!

    August 13, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  11. Steve

    Let's call it for what it is – organized exclusion of Hispanics and Latinos. I guarantee that there are many illegal immigrants from other countries, particularly European countries (dare I say – where the illegals are WHITE), but I don't hear the outcry from these xenophobes.

    August 13, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    John McCain, Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham are the axis of evil and those who follow them should be ashame. The Constitution should never be changed to fit those who work for the devil.

    August 13, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  13. Mike from MN

    Here we go again, white people trying to change the rules because color people are rising up.

    Nothing more than a GOP trick to clearly scare white people from color people like Obama.

    The GOP knows full well, color people favor Democrats. As the population of people of color grows, the established white folks who killed off the Natives and have controlled this country for over a century are becoming increasing nervous.

    We now see the true color of conservative white folks. The will smile and be nice to you in your face so long as you "know your place". But the minute you rise up and obtain positions of power, they cry the "system [constitution] is broken".

    August 13, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  14. Guess Who

    GOP/Tea Party is apparently making the ideology of Southern White Confederacy as the standard of America. Any other thought process is not to be tolerated by them now. It is a fear factor described as the “take back our country” mantra. Now brown babies are becoming the deadliest threat to the tea drinkers, these are Hispanic, Middle Eastern (Muslim) and interracial e.g. Obama, following in line will be Asians as well. America is not a racial ethnic nation, compared to the Old World where groups of humans have established their roots for thousands of years in certain geographical regions. Instead, what has been a fantasy of the KKK and White Nationalist is now becoming accepted among millions of whites in America. Genocide is becoming at its dawn the darkest day in the USA.

    August 13, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  15. XWngLady

    These old white folks have gone completely bonkers...Are they listening to what they are actually proposing? Do they realize how racist and ridiculous they sound?

    August 13, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  16. WMesser58

    First off it's a non-issue. Any thing illegal circumvents legal. Thus if you are illegal coming in to this country you have no legal rights so, having children doesn't give them the rights to be a citizen of the United States.

    I do not believe a change in the Constitution is the answer it's simple deport illegals and what ever they do while in this country is null and void.

    August 13, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  17. Sam Ellison

    Elected officials swear on a Bible that they will "Protect and DEFEND" the Constitution of the United States. Nowhere do they swear the AMEND it when things aren't going their way. This is a cowards way out of a delicate and nuanced issue.

    Protect and defend, not protect and amend!

    August 13, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  18. Marty, FL

    Not just wrong, it's fundamentally insane, extreme, and completely disrespectful of our constitutional forefathers. Some constitutionists these GOP "leaders" turned out to be...birthers, secession, staining the document with inequality/discrimination, singular religion, etc.

    Enough of the nonsense. Uphold our Constitution & freedoms.

    August 13, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  19. gt

    sorry janet american thinks your nuts for allowing ilegals here to just have kids then suck away all the benifits they can get for free... do you job .. send the illegals back home..

    August 13, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    100% correct. BUt you see, the Ghomert's of the world don't care about the border or illegal immigration...they care about white people maintaining the majority in America. November 4, 2008 frightened the bejesus out of the right wing when they realized what might start happening more frequently.

    Oh, and CNN, you're right...you better not touch the story about what Bryan Fischer has been spewing all over the interwebz and will no doubt say in his speeches at prominent upcoming conservative events...it's far too racist, xenophobic, bigotted and downright moronic for the MSM to report, because exposing it to the light of day would help destroy him and his credibility and thereby make it harder to drum up controversy regarding the "ground zero mosque" and muslim rights in America. Tell the management in the ad department they did a swell job on fighting that story.

    August 13, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  21. Marcus

    Ok, say that (by some disgrace) there's a serious discussion about changing the 14th Ammendment and the discussion is happenng right now in the Congress...
    Do you guys have any proof that the part that grants automatic citizenship to all babies born on US soil (except the children of diplomates and the likes) will be really the only one to be discussed?
    REALLY REALLY?
    Thought so...

    August 13, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  22. Augsbee

    I agree that is wrong to deny a baby the country he/she was born in.
    I do think that we could make a change that states that the baby born to an illegal immigrants must stay in the USA and the illegal immigrants be returned to their country. That baby will not be allowed to leave the USA until the age of 18. Perhaps, illegal immigrants will think twice of having their babies in our country if they have to leave the baby behind.
    I also think we need make a change that states that any baby born in a foreign country to 1 U.S. born parent will no longer be given automatically U.S. Citizenship, cannot claim the U.S. as the birthplace and must enter the U.S. with a passport from the country he/she was born in. This will protect our country against mothers who were born in the U.S. to foreign parents and who have never lived in the U.S., having their babies in a foreign country but claiming the U.S. as the birthplace of their babies, claiming U.S. Citizenship for their babies.
    I read that such a law exists from the 1950's.

    August 13, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. LIP

    This is what it has come to. Because of politics, we can't get the real job done of ridding ourselves of 20 million illegal immigrants, so we are forced to look at stopping the addition of more offspring delivered illegally into our already failing system that provides support for those offspring. We can't afford them, so we need to change the rules that no one ever anticipated when they wrote them.

    August 13, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  24. Jon

    This 14th Amendment frenzy being promoted by the republicans who realize that the demographics are rapidly changing from a majority of right wing wasps to a majority of various ethnic and racial mintorities, including a rapidly growing hispanic voting bloc. The republicans are going to lose their base and will find themselves a has been polictical party unless they either move more to the middle with moderation or try as they are doing now to bloc a large ethnic minority from grownin. The times are a changing and the republicans had better wake up and face reality.

    August 13, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  25. Steve in North Carolina

    It's worth looking at. We also have Islamics flying into Detroit (to visit supposedly), having a kid and then taking the kid back to their county to be raised. Since the kid twas born in the US, he or she automatically becomes a dual citizen.

    The 14th amendment was designed after the civil war and was intended to ensure that blacks were afforded their due civil rights as citizens.

    That good intent is now being exploited by others and being used against us.

    August 13, 2010 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
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