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. T'SAH from Virginia

    WHO does the RepubliCAN'Ts think they are fooling???? OF COURSE, they want to discuss it now and NOT state where they stand on the issue BECAUSE and only BECAUSE of the upcoming election – PERIOD!!!! They want you to believe they have a heart and in the end – the answer is still going to be NO!!!!!

    "...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 CRACKER states.

    OKAY, Graham – the 'birth-right' citizens that are currently here – has a right to STAY – you just verified that, Jeez – then what's the problem??!!! The day the 14th Amendment is changed and worded they way you have stated then – 'birth-right' citizens of illegal immigrants – cannot STAY!!! You BETTER hurry up and change it!!!! LOL

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

    What if they were RIGHT REASONS as to why they flock here???

    August 3, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Rushs unseen, unheard, staff are the people he has callin to his show

    You didnt hear a peep out of these morons during the Bush Regime,why not?They always pass the hard jobs to Democrats,so they can take the beating.Its like ratting out your brother or sister,when its you that created the mess.

    August 3, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. lolo

    Are these republicans really serious? LOL!!!!!!!!!! They are really flip floppers. First they want to uphold the constitution and now they want to change it to their liking. Please vote these people out of office. They are only for themselves and party. This is too funny.

    August 3, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. Denny

    I really hate the thought of tinkering with our constitution in any way but we must stop this abuse of the 14th amendment. I know a nurse in Texas who says that pregnant Mexican women come over the border just in time to give birth. Once they are here they keep getting pregnant. She sees the same illegal women many times but can't refuse service or citizenship. This is an abuse of our rights. We are being over-run with illegal immigrants and we must stop it. Where is Obama's leadership?

    August 3, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. Ted

    Hope the Party of NO checks out McCain first since he was born in Panama.

    August 3, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Larry

    McConnell, you and the rest of the republican clowns can obstruct all you want.

    But you ain't getting any of your own legislation thru either. You need the Democrats for that, and that ain't happening!

    August 3, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. anagram_kid

    What’s next, reexamining the 19th amendment to see if what it really meant is that women should be allowed to vote if they are white, protestant and will vote for a Republican? Slippery slope folks.

    August 3, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |

    I welcome this debate passionately!....let the republikkklans continue to dig deeper into the cesspoll of their ideological hate and bigotry of of color and racism!

    Immigration is NOT about witch hunting....but the republikklan Tea-baggers party are DEFINITELY reaching further than what our founding fathers intending this country to be...that i'ts a melting pot of all races and a country of immigrants!

    Sure thing the Tea-baggers are clamoring to "defend" the constitution but in the same breath planning to change the constitution to fit their narrow far-right ideological agenda!

    this is the United States of America for all races and immigrants...not a country for ONLY WHITES!!!!!

    August 3, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. Phil from Corpus Christi

    For once it appears that Mitch McConnell may actually be at least contemplating a decent idea by getting to one of the roots/causes of illegal immigration. Children of parents illegally in this country should not be automatic citizens. This will cut down a lot on the number of illegals coming here. There should be no advantages or benefits of any type for anyone in this country illegally. Take away their reasons for coming and they will stop coming.

    August 3, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  10. Jim

    No jobs, two wars and a country who's economy is in the toliet and the Republicans want to discuss this topic. What a bunch of idiots all of them including the Democrats. Let's talk about jobs and more jobs. The American people want to work not watch or listen to a bunch of old fools discuss birthrights. They should all jump off a cliff. The working class won't mind. These old goats should be rounded up and sent to The Farm!

    John McCain you and Scrotum throat McConnell are a disgrace!

    August 3, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. Marcus

    Oh man...
    After they realized that what they were proposing was illegal and unconstitutional they decided to change the Constitution of the United States of America to make it legal!
    Unexpected? Honestly... yes.

    August 3, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. Dave

    I thought republicans wanted to uphold the constitution?

    August 3, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  13. Anthony

    Yeah, only republicans will get to be citizens, and only certain types of republicans will get to be full citizens with voting rights and such. Everyone else will be merely tolerated so long as they serve the interests of true citizens; Birthright citizenship protects us all from the injudicious irruptions of fanatics.

    So, why is it that the crowd who most loudly postures about their commitment to the constitution are the same crowd that repeatedly rushes to alter it in alarmingly profound ways?

    August 3, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  14. Clyde Andress

    Number one reason I cannot vote for McCain. No Nuts. Will not stand up and take a stand until someone else has stepped out and taken action. Example, the State of Arizona passed a bill to protect the State and the Border, and everyone in the country cheered, then McCain proclaimed his "10 point plan". To late, no action. NO NUTS McCAIN.

    Now McCain and Kyl are calling for stronger security on border!


    August 3, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  15. norma

    That's a great way to make sure your party never, ever gets the LEGAL immigrant vote.

    August 3, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  16. DIANA

    We have a war, record deficit, unemployment, and this is what they think is important?! Leave it to the Republicans to put country first.

    August 3, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    These republiKKKLans need to stop the malarky. Leave the Constitution alone. You can't make constitutional amendments just because. If a person has a student visa and has a baby in America, then the baby is American. Period!

    August 3, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    You don't hear dems ranting about John McCain's citizenship.

    August 3, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  19. Marcus

    From Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 SCOTUS ruling: “The Fourteenth Amendment extends to anyone, citizen or stranger, who is subject to the laws of a State, and reaches into every corner of a State’s territory. That a person’s initial entry into a State, or into the United States, was unlawful, and that he may for that reason be expelled, cannot negate the simple fact of his presence within the State’s territorial perimeter.”
    This ruling made a good definition of what is called the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which means that ILLEGAL aliens have the same rights that LEGAL ones and US CITIZENS (save for the right to vote and others that are by definition exclusive of US citizens)...
    Will THAT be included in the 'hearings' that they want to hold about the necessity (or not) to change the 14th Ammendment?

    August 3, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  20. cocitizen

    Only committee chairmen can authorize hearings. Hopefully the Democratic majority will not allow themselves to be played for fools on this totally political stunt by the GOP. But, considering Reid's track record, that might be asking to much.

    August 3, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  21. John

    Good. It's about time we started talking about the #1 incentive for illegal immigration into the United States of America. Take away the carrot and use a bigger stick and pretty soon we'll see some progress in resolving the illegal immigration problem.

    August 3, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. cardog

    I never thought that I would agree with a Republican proposal, but this one finds me in total agreement.
    If possible, can someone please list for me the countries that permit anyone's child automatically being a citizen if they are born in that country but the parents are not citizens?
    While we are on the subject, why is it that we as a nation have taken on the burden of supplying free education, medical care and in some situations food stamps or EBT to people who are not citizens of the United States?
    An American citizen cannot in some instances receive the amount of aid that illegal immigrents do. I'm totally confused. How about you?

    August 3, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  23. ConHooey

    The GOP – all we want are judges who uphold the constitution! Not activists. We believe in constitutional authority – the left is all about socialism and not our constitutional rights. Oh – BTW – we don't like the 14th amendment ...lets just do away with it? We really don't like it so why not get rid of it!!

    August 3, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  24. Angie in Denver

    Wonder why the same yahoos who would declare to God himself that the Constitution is the law of the land are so quick to change the parts they don't like? How Patriotic!

    August 3, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  25. ST

    The list of birthers is now growing bigger and bigger. Aren't these GOP leaders aware that they are committing political suicide by digging deeper on "birthright citizenship". They better ask "W" or Karl Rove rather, why they didn't want to involve themselves in immigration issue!

    August 3, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
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