August 3rd, 2010
01:09 PM ET
13 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. JWN in SC

    Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

    August 3, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  2. Hendrik

    This is the typical election year boogyman garbage that the Republicans always pull. They do this immigration thing all the time but, boy, have they gone to the extremes. This is pure politics of the highest (or lowest) order. The question we have to ask again and again (and one that is never answered) is,

    "Why was this never a problem in the past but is now such a crisis?"

    After November all this will go away again.

    Repukes are a sad lot, all of them, no exceptions. I cannot think of one Republican I would like to socialize with.

    August 3, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  3. Augsbee

    You are from the place where you are born-no one can change where a baby is born – you can deny the truth conveniently but it is what it is. Should children born to illegals be denied their country?? NO.

    August 3, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  4. Charlie in Maine

    Hey GOP if you are just now realizing that you don't have the support of most ethnic groups it may already be too late.

    August 3, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  5. The Party of No-Socialism

    This is such a no-brainer it is ridiculous. ONLY US CITIZENS should be able to create another US CITIZEN!!!!!!!!!!! This country MUST maintain some sort of sovereignty! NO MORE OPEN BORDERS!! NO MORE CROSSING THE BORDER AND DROPPING A BABY ON US SOIL!!!!

    August 3, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. marlene

    The GObP leaders, yea the old white guys, pushing the repeal of the 14th amendment aren't doing it for the future of America. Instead they are pushing this idea for the good of their leadership positions in the GObP. Not one of these leaders care about working in a bi-partisan manner for the good of the country, but instead for talking points in their re-election bids. I'm so sick of partisan politics, that I would support an amendment for term limits for all Representatives and Senators.

    August 3, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  7. SharkMan2

    "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.'"

    From what I've seen, this is how Republicans view "experts;" if the "expert" agrees with whatever viewpoint they're trying to push, then that person is an expert in their field. If they don't agree with their viewpoint, then the "expert" is branded as an "elitist" who is trying to "force their world view on America."

    August 3, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. GL

    Republicans and their supporters love living in fear. First it was the black bogyman is coming to take over this country and kill all white people and take their jobs. Now it is the Anchor Baby of the Mexicans trying to steal from the white people and God knows who will be next the bogyman the whites will be afraid of. The Republicans call themselves the party of Christians and they are the main ones that continue to treat people badly because of the color of their skin. Republicans are driven by fear when God said do not live in fear. I guest a lot of them never read their Bible that why they are called Bible Thumpers because that’s all they do is thumping thought the Bible without reading or comprehensive what they may have read. How do you called your self a person of God in one breath and in the next breath talk badly about people and mistreat people because you don’t like the color of their skin. HYOCRIPTE at it best.

    August 3, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. jeremy

    "that we should change our Constitution".... that one line right there should be all the reason for the teabaggers to cry foul against their beloved conservatives in office...

    August 3, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. mary dale

    For once I have to say, i agree with the republican leadership. Illegal is illegal; stopping this part might help in reducing illegals. That said, I am sure they have a deeper agenda. All we ever needed to do was to fine the employers of illegals heavily with the fine rising with each incident and i bet they will stop hiring the illegals and the illegals will have to reason to come to our country.

    August 3, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. Sam Ellison

    I'm more than a little shocked that these senators would consider changing a 150 year old Amendment just to help their side win one little victory in the immigration debate.

    How is this not indicative of their overall approach to government? If the puzzle pieces don't fit you don't trim them to fit, you find the correct piece and move on.

    August 3, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. Augsbee

    By the way I disagree with Graham, Birthright Citizenship is not the only reason people are attracted to our country illegally, there are other major things such freedom, jobs, money, our way of life, laws that protect us. I think it is time Graham travels around the world and realizes most people in most countries do not have the freedoms we have here nor our way of life, laws that protect the citizens, etc... A child is a citizen of whatever country that child is born in including the USA. Truth is truth.
    Traveling around the world would do most people in our country good.

    August 3, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. Blake

    It ought to be reviewed. In all reality since Illegals are not having babies most of the time much farther north than Colorado or Oklahoma nothing will most likely happen. The border states are left footing the tab on free babies and then if there are problems the doctors & hospitals get sued even though the mother never bothered with any prenatal care or checkups. Its ridiculous and if both parents are here illegally the child should not be granted automatic citizenship. Anything worthwhile is not free, We should make it easy to grant citizenship to those who want to come here with capital that want to start businesses or have advanced degrees.

    August 3, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. all the news that's fit to omit

    I hope this get's repealed as it is the stupidest law we have on the books as it makes no sense NONE.

    NO other country has a law like this and NOR should they, but like the anchor babies law that Kennedy got passed in the 1960 that according to that fool would "have little effect on our country".

    You come here legally and have babies, I applaud you and appreciate you doing it the way my grandparents did and WELCOME to this once great country (2012 will be here soon enough)...

    August 3, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. Steve in Denver

    Yes, another day, another hate filled rant from the leader of the party of no. repeal the fourteenth amendment?

    I've got to hand it to the R's. They sure know how to take their failures and shove it up our butts. For eight years bush was happy as a pig in a poke to ignore the influx of cheap labor to drive down wages, yet our illegal immigration problems started January, 2009.

    I'm so tired of their lies, and more tired of many voters' ignorance to believe this crap. The deficit started January 21, 2009. Obama's war in Afghanistan started 1/21/2009. The 2007 bush recession started 1/21/2009. Unemployment started 1/21/2009. Jeez, and the "liberal" media doesn't challenge a bit of it.

    August 3, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. Debbie

    Once again, the republicans are off message!
    What are you doing to help get us back to work?
    Isn't this the question you love to ask? Do something without saying NO! We do not give a _____ about birthright citizenship!

    August 3, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  17. Randi

    McCain was NOT born in the US. Panama, yes, but that wasn't then the US nor is it now.

    August 3, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  18. GL

    Any thing, but the real issues at hand like the enomny plan the to get this country back on track which the Republicans continue to avoid. This is 100 percent political

    August 3, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. DB

    Has the gop become communist? This is given in the Constitution and the gop should not be trying to alter the Constitution. What will be next? Anyone who doesn't agree with this evil group of people will be constitutionally forbidden any American rights.

    August 3, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. anagram_kid

    Another example of the hypocrisy of the party that swears by the constitution until it does not match their narrow view of what is ‘right’ for ‘their’ country.

    August 3, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  21. Carole

    Funny – I thought that the Republicans wanted to UPHOLD and PROTECT the Constitution – not change it. Seems a little fishy to me.

    August 3, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  22. NJ Jim

    More Republican nonsense. These guys have no integrity, do not put our country first and would sell their souls for political gain and a return to power. They get loonier every day...and that includes the brainless former republican VP nominee/ one-half term governor from Alaska...another right wing nut!

    August 3, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  23. GL

    Sanders said that Republicans would prefer to talk about divisive social issues instead of ways to fix the economy.

    AND Sanders is 100 percent correct!

    August 3, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  24. Jerry in NC

    There IS an amendment to the constitution that is needed....There needs to be an amendment that states, Old White Men are to be in violation of both legal and moral law, exhibiting a "GOD Complex" on the rest of the nation and the world! This is becoming sickening! Who in the hell do they think they are???? They don't OWN this country. And contrary to the distorted records and history books, their ancestors DID NOT FOUND THIS COUNTRY! They stole it from the Native Americans (North American Indians). The really sickening thing about this mess is, there are plenty enough of ignorant and stupid white people to support these egotistical A-holes, when they come up with this kind of garbage. Hey Redneck McClownell, while you're at it, propose legislation to tear down and remove the statue of liberty. Obviously it doesn't stand for anything anymore and the words written on the tablet are just rhetoric and BS!

    August 3, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  25. raingirl2

    this would be one of the greatest moves toward controlling the ongoing invasion of illegal aliens to this country. while simultaneously enforcing our current laws to the letter. no other country grants automatic citizenship just because of birth in that country. The United States behavior seems to be one of destruction of this country 99% of the taxpaying citizens in this country do not want any form of amnesty or that children born to an illegal alien parent should be granted automatic citizenship. there is enough passes given to non citizens to temporarily come to this country in the form of various visas we don't need nor want the additional burden of importation of low skilled/no skilled illegals sneaking into this country and protected by this government for any reason and we should not give social welfare benefits, education, housing,or routine non life threatening medical and certainly never grant amnesty to law breakers if the congress both parties want the votes or cheap labor they should move to Mexico . For decades Congress and past and present Presidents should have enforced the laws and kept their word decades ago but did not do the right thing by its citizens and kept their word (remember Ronald Regan) Now they must work from a fair playing field. ie by not being dishonest and corrupt this applies to both parties because this is just another way that the leaders of this country is destroying this country we must stop sending money to Mexico because even Calderon says that the cartels have taken over that country so guess who we are giving tax payers money to if not the cartel it's time for the leaders of this country to buy a vowel and stop pandering to those who clearly show that they hate Americans and will do any thing to bring this country down.duh!!!

    August 3, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
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