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. Hammerer

    Why is it wrong?

    August 13, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  2. Thank God I am a Democrat

    Thank God Republicans are opposed to any changes to the constitution.

    Wait...

    What's that...

    ...the Republicans are the ones that want to change the 14th amendment.

    Man they almost had me fooled.

    August 13, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  3. Gaylon Barrow NOT ASHAMED for the truth!!!

    You Democrats don't seem to have a problem with amending the Constitution. What's more why would you allow the illegals' babies to become citizens when their parents are in this country unlawfully. Let the Babies stay if you have to but send the dad gum gangsters back to Mexico. We don't want them to support.

    August 13, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  4. David in Houston

    I wholeheartedly agree!

    August 13, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  5. Paul Ernest Show

    Its so unfortunate that children of immigrants could be so antagonistic toward new immigrants. If the same rules were applied to their fathers and grandfathers, they definitely would not have been born in America.

    August 13, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  6. David

    I think a change would be good for the country. Our founding fathers did not visualize the problems we have today. Birth right citizenship was considered when two citizens (husband and wife) had a child that child by birth was a citizen. We have long overlooked the problem of birth right citizenship because we had no fears that something wrong would come from it. However, 9/11 changed that, and despite what critics are saying on the 14th Amendment, the best way to get a spy or cell into America is by birth. What makes you so sure this has not already happened. Look at the citizens already who have tried unsuccessfully to blow up things. If the parents do not want to be citizens and immigrate properly than we should not recognize the offspring because in the end who has enfluance of their children.

    August 13, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  7. Ben in Texas

    I'd like to ask the neo-tards around here about changing the Constitution, an idea that was up until recently abhorrent to them. If they are in favor of dropping the 14th Amendment, how would they feel about clearing up that pesky 2nd Amendment, while they're at it. After all, the 2nd was there when the Constitution was originally ratified, so it's much older than the 14th, and therefore, more out of date.

    The 14th is pretty clear in its intent, compared to the 2nd. When the Constitution was ratified, the 2nd Amendment referred to muskets, bayonets, and single shot pistols. Now we have people claiming that assault rifles, RPGs, and maybe nuclear weapons (for all I know) are covered by that same wording.

    So, to be consistent with the intent of the Framers, I think we should fix the 2nd Amendment to include wording that specifies that the rights of individuals to keep and bear *muskets* should not be infringed. What do you think?

    August 13, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  8. DIANA

    Leave it to Constitution loving Republicans to come up with a stupid devicive idea as this.

    Their only word for the last 18 months has been "No", they say they're going to come up with a plan in Sept. -wjat took them so long, they want tax cuts only for the rich, when none of those work, they go back to their scare tatics of divide and conquor. I REALLY hope the American people are smart enough not to fall for their diversion.

    August 13, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  9. Enough

    Exactly what we would expect from this weak, inexperienced and ineffective member of Obama's staff.

    August 13, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  10. jimmy

    Amend it.

    August 13, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  11. WILLARD BULLOCK

    I was surpised that presdient obama are keep problems too bad about his polls so he is not job his presdient about his encommy

    August 13, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  12. AFR531

    So the children pay for the sins of the parents? Is that what we've come to? If your father dies in prison after serving 10 years of a 15 year sentence-should you serve the remaining 5 years? How can you be born in America and not be American?

    August 13, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  13. Rickster

    Of course democrats think it's wrong. Anything that is good for the country democrats think is wrong. But then again, democrats also think it's just fine that Bill Clinton routinely sat in the oval office, called Monica Lewinsky and punched the clown while talking to her so I guess we all know what sort of judgment democrats have.

    August 13, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  14. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    This corrupt, inept union toady White House just kinda picks and chooses what laws to change, enforce or ignore. Whatever will reelect more corrupt liberals or steal money from the pockets of hard working Americans are what it will always go with.

    August 13, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  15. Buster

    The only action this administration wants to take on immigration is blanket amnesty and THAT IS WRONG. What do we expect, when this administration has been turning a blind eye and deaf ear to what the vast majority of Americans want. They want to know why they will be thrown out in 2010 and 2012, well that is your answer.

    August 13, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  16. Marcus

    Before you guys who are for it say anything, let's just remember that 'guilt by association' might be in the core of the social prejudice against families of ex-cons and cons, BUT that is not (and I don't think that it was, at least constitutionally speaking) the 'law of the land'. Nor it is right in any way...
    So children of ILLEGAL aliens who are born in USA's soil are not GUILTY for their parents being here illegaly. They are not guilty of ANYTHING.
    PS: There's a guy who's been posting a few words of the man who was the main force behind the writing of the 14th as if it backed his/her prejudice against 'anchor babies'. Guess what dude, he said that to make it clear that children born of parents that are NOT under the USA' s jurisdiction (diplomatic representatives and the likes) are NOT US citizens.

    August 13, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. Mark from Louisiana

    Was it wrong when Harry Reid brought a bill to the Senate in the early 1990's....to prevent anchor babies?
    Of course now that a Republican is proposing the same thing, he is the devil.
    Typical democraps, do as I say, not like I do

    August 13, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  18. malabar

    so Harry Reid was wrong in 1993 for introducing legislation on this very matter. notice how dems are always wrong b4 theyre right? slavery, communism, 14th amendment, civil rights act 1964, furloughs 4 murderers, molesting interns . . . wonder when they will b against infantacide

    August 13, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. Bobert

    Is it really such a hard concept for people to accept? There's two basic ways of defining citizenship of new born individuals; birthplace based citizenship, and parental based citizenship. The 14th amendment goes by birthplace. It could just easily be based on a person's parent's citizenship. For example:

    Two US citizens have a child, their child is a US citizen.

    A US citizen and a non-US citizen have a child, their child is granted both US and whatever other country citizenship to the child. At at 18, the child get's to choose which country of citizenship they would like to be aligned to.

    Two non-US citizens have a child (even within the US), that child is a citizen of their country, not the US.

    Is it that hard to think that this would not endanger current individuals citizenship, while protecting future LEGAL immigrants to this country against those currently abusing this amendment, put in place 150 years ago to protect Black slaves? Apparently so.

    August 13, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  20. Too True For You

    I understand the GOP will also introduce a motion to change the plaque on the Statue of Liberty:

    "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free........only if they're white, though."

    August 13, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  21. Tom-Vermillion, Ohio

    Once again, I agree with the White House. In my opinion, the GOP senators mentioned in the article, have embraced themselves with the 'wrong crowd' and have been influenced by public figures that have not been elected by the populace other than by 'media polls' driven by too far right leaning media propaganda. In other words, certain news media organizations are MAKING the news and not simply reporting it. They are effectively inflaming the public to steer attention away from important economic issues and legislation currently on the tables of Congress and the White House. Blaming the minorities/illegals while 'headline grabbing' and does sway public opinion cannot and will not 'fix' the economy. History has demonstrated that fact.

    August 13, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  22. Rick McDaniel

    When the government does nothing to stop illegal immigration, then the only recourse, is to change the constitution.

    August 13, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  23. Dale Moore

    Just when is the Congress going to act on illegal immigration? 1 out of 12 births are to illegal immigrants, who pays for these people, the American taxpayer. Ban any individual born to illegal immigrants in this country from automatic citizenship, and deport everyone back to where they came. It costs Arizona a million a year to educate, provide health care for children of illegal immigrants.

    August 13, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. Charlie in Maine

    One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite shows:

    Charles Emerson Winchester (from M*A*S*H*): "My family has had trouble with those damned immigrants ever since we first came to this country."

    If you are not full-blooded Native American ( or decended from slaves) your only response to immigration should be : "Thank God they had it when my ancestors got here."

    We are a nation of immigrants. It is our strength. As Alex de Toqueville said.. "America is great because America is good, and if She ceases to be good she shall cease to be great."

    August 13, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  25. Nelson, Colorado Springs Co

    WELL! Section. 1. 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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    August 13, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
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