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. Ray E. (Georgia)

    The people, by a 2 to 1 margin, if not a 9 to 1 margin want all illegals removed from the country. That was pretty much the results of the last try for immigration reform. We don't need immigration reform. Those that want to become citizens need to go thru the process that is already in place, period. The only place to apply for citizenship is in the country of origin. Otherwise don't expect to be come a citizen.

    And if necessary, change the 14th ammendent.

    August 13, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. Michael in Houston

    republicans are by their very nature and their core exactly the sort of people that would pick a fight with children. Which is essentially what they are doing with this weak attempt to change the 14th. They cant fight on even terms...they like to find the weakest among us and punch them around.

    Gutless...creepy.....cowards.

    Leave the kids out of it for crying out loud.

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

    Changing 14th amendment is just wrong even smart republicans agree Don’t’ issue visa for pregnant simple
    Louis Gohmert Jr won’t get this

    August 13, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  4. Jeremiah

    I know you libs would love for the Republican majority to run with this 14th amendment deal but it will never happen. For one any idiot knows convincing 2/3 of both houses is fruitless and two most of us in the south work & live with mostly Hispanics. This is a loser deal for the GOP and Americans in general. A majority of the GOP just wants the current laws enforced and Graham and McCain are out of touch and grasping in an election year.

    August 13, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  5. Edna

    I guess I will never see the end of racism in my lifetime. I am a 64-year-old African American woman and no matter how yo spin it, this talk of amending/repealing the 14th amendment is racist. These old white men in Congress are pathetic. This country should be a country of inclusion, not seclusion. What are we teaching our children? I thank God that my son grew up loving those that he came in contact with and has friends of all nationalities. He and his friends don't care about "color." This generation has moved far beyond the generation of McCain and Boehner. They are a disgrace to this nation. The Republican Party is a disgrace to the country of our founding fathers. I pray that this party never has the power in the House and the Senate that they desire, simply because they are not interested in governing, just obstructing President Obama and destroying this great country of ours.

    August 13, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  6. Kathy Corey

    Maybe we are tired of being the saps of the world. We do things with a good heart and then get taken advantage of. We have a government that refuses to enforce existing laws. We have a government and a political elitist class that believes that only the law that they like should be enforced.

    There should be a debate on this subject. Should we be supporting from cradle to grave children whose parents are illegal? The circular argument on the left has been that we have to legitimize parents of child citizens so that we don't separate families. Maybe we just have to prevent child citizens.

    We are a nation of immigrants. In the past immigrants had to support themselves or be sponsored by someone who could support them while they became self-sufficient.

    Seal the borders and then let's discuss what to do going forward.

    August 13, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  7. Gary

    The GOP is trying to push peoples hot button because they don't have any ideas. The 14th ammendment has been this way for over 100 years, now it's a crisis?

    August 13, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  8. Bingo

    Any thought of changing the 14th Amendment, or of otherwise amending the Constitution to change the current interpretation that a child born in the United States of America is, at birth, an American citizen, is just wrong. If you are born within the USA borders, regardless of how you came to be within our borders at the time of your birth, then you are a citizen of the USA and entitled by birthright to all the rights and privileges of such. BUT, if your parents are illegal immigrants, those rights of citizenship DO NOT extend to your parents and your citizenship CANNOT be used as a justification for the illegal immigrants to remain within the USA. As illegal immigrants, they should be deported. It is their choice as to whether or not you remain in the USA or return with them to their native country. As a native born American, you are free to return to the country of your birth at any time.

    August 13, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. American Patriot

    The 14th Amendment? The one that guarantees that our federal Constitutional rights cannot be abridged by the states?The amendment that guarantees that our life, liberty, or property cannot be deprived without due process of law?The one that guarantees equal protection of the laws? The one that protects voting rights?

    I can't imagine why the Republicans would want to alter that amendment...

    August 13, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. Jeremy

    The next thing these neo-cons will rant and rave about is making Christianity the official US religion. Theocracy USA. Far-fetched? Consider Anlge's "2nd Amendment remedies" if you think so.

    August 13, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  11. Marvin

    If the White House says it is “just wrong”, then obviously it is "just right". It is not a decision to be made by the White House. May God bless Hispanic Americans, but Obama, do your job and send the Mexican invaders home to Mexico.

    August 13, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  12. Fix the amendment

    What was the intention of the 14th amendment? To allow ex-slaves to gain/retain citizenship.

    Liberals and 'progressives' have no clue what is going on in the country. They say, "it is just wrong" without even saying what is wrong with the idea of fixing a loophole in the amendment. Systematic slavery has been gone for 150 Years. Time to fix the loophole.

    August 13, 2010 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  13. BeverlyNC

    Changing the Constitution just so you can target one ethnic group of people is not only wrong, it is unAmerican.

    It is sickening what Republicans will stoop to doing when they are desperate to win in an election. They started this whole ridiculous discussion as a political distraction so they could divert voters from thinking about what huge failures Republicans have been this Congress. They betrayed the People and voted NO on everything. Since they did NOTHING, they have NOTHING to run on.

    Using our Constitution for a political game is disgusting.

    John McCain was for AMNESTY in 2007 and even wrote an immigration bil for it. Bush Jr was for it. Both Reagan and Bush Sr did give blanket AMNESTY to more than 13M illegal immigrants while President. So where do Republicans really stand on immigration?

    If AZ was so terrified of illegals, then why did McCain do NOTHING for more than a decade while having the ability to bring forth immigration reform legislation?

    They are all hypocrites and liars. None are fit for office. We need to get these snakes out of Congress. Vote NO on all Republicans in November. We need to drain the swamp of these slimeball Republicans who are racist, hate anyone who is not rich and white, and work against recovery for America,

    August 13, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  14. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Our country will remain open to danger until the democrats are replaced .

    August 13, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  15. Gil

    Now the Party of No, who has so long called themselves defenders of the Constitution, are attacking it. We need to rid ourselves of this cancer on America! REPUBLICANS!

    August 13, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  16. NVa Native

    Promoting screwing around with our Constitution for politcial postruring, and that it won't solve the problem of illigal immigration isn't just wrong, it's just stupid.
    But we know the Repubs don't really want to do anything, they just want to get their mindless base all fired up. That's why the Beckler is doing so well.

    August 13, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  17. danno

    Janet is just plain wrong. We wouldn't be in this mess if Homeland Security and ICE would just enforce the current laws as written.
    Birthright needs to be amended to exclude those not having a US citizen as a biological parent.

    August 13, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  18. Charles W. Skinner

    It's terribly interesting that the "Constitutional Scholar" (who doesn't understand some basic Constitutional principles, by the way) in the White House is openly against amending the Constitution.

    The 14th amendment has been being abused since the late 1800s to impose "equal protection" (which we know to be unequal) upon the STATES (not individuals, as it does not apply to individuals).

    Gibbs is an idiot – the Republicans talk about Judicial Fidelity to the Constitution AS WRITTEN, and that if we don't like what it says, that we should AMEND IT rather than have judges simply say "well that's not what it meant, or that's not what it means TODAY" when the Judge's interpretation contradicts the CLEAR LANGUAGE of the document.

    August 13, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  19. Ryan

    So according to Janet, it is fine to have people come across the border illegally to have a child, but returning US troops are a national security threat......what is wrong with this picture.

    August 13, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  20. Eric

    "White House: 14th Amendment change 'just wrong'"

    Yeah, but fast-tracking known lawbreakers into amnesty and citizenship, just means more democrat voters, and yeah, apparantly that's OK.

    Why don't they at least be honest and call it what it is... "a path to a democrat voting booth."

    By the way, how's it going getting felons and prison inmates their democrat voting rights back too? I hear there is also a push to give citizenship to deceased Democrat cemetary residents, too. Why are we discriminating against them, just because of their lack of a pulse? Dead people, demand your democrat voting rights!

    August 13, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  21. JES

    Janet,

    Where have you been the past 50 years.

    This needs to be corrected one out of every six people born in the U.S. are from illegal parents.

    August 13, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  22. Iraida Rivero

    This 14th amendment is for the birds, all you want is to control, everything, I am sick and tired of supporting every Tom, Dick and Harry that arrive illegally, including anchor babies, of course we will never have enough, they have destroyed our nation, if they feel so strong about this why don't congress, the pres. and every single politician in favor of upholding the 14th amendment, support all these parasites. enough is enough.

    August 13, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  23. Donnatella

    These people are always preaching the constitution but have the nerve to want to change it to suit their agenda, what hypocrites. I say we shut the borders down permanently and send the whole family back, not just the baby.

    August 13, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  24. dale

    All these republican lovers of the Constitution imeadiately want to change it as soon as what they want is declared unconstitional. What they fail to see is the the U.S. Constitution is not a hammer to be wielded by the majority to beat down the rights of the minority, but a shield to protect the minority from the oppression of the majoity.

    August 13, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  25. Rick

    ony reason you reject it is most of your family is probably illegals

    August 13, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
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