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. bill

    mcconel is a right wing fool.ENOUGH SAID

    August 3, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  2. olivia60

    Just like the first amendmend the fourteenth amendmend has been used and abused and left open to anyones interpretation. if some one has come to this country and has attained american citizenship then has the right call thier children american citizens.for to long this misinterpreted amendment has allowed illegal aliens to inter this country for the sole purpose of feeding off of USA. some have come already pregnant just so thier child or children could be born and intitled to help drain the economy .

    August 3, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  3. Tom-Vermillion, Ohio

    So now you folks want to mess around with the constitution. Didn't you folks just join up with the Tea Party folks? You know the ones who are bonified ultra-right-wing-also known as neo-conservatives who are hell bent on 'taking back' maybe better put 'taking over' this county? Are you the same Republicans helped block the campaingn finance bill that was initiated as a result of the Conservative Supreme Court Justices ruling to allow it? Are you the same Republicans who wanted to disallow people from voting because they were foreclosed upon? Are you very same folks who want to see President Obama to fail just because neo-conservative activist Rus Limbaugh proclaimed he wanted it so? If any of these Republicans answer yes to any of these questions, then they have no business even touching the Constitution. In fact, in my opinion (for what its worth), they and the so called Supreme Court Justices should RESIGN or BE IMPEACHED for conduct clearly against the best interests of the American People. Effective Immediately. Do not even consider ammending the US Constitution. I'm afraid of how far you just may take the ammending should you gain control of Congress. Oh yes, on Aug 1, 2010, I endorsed Sen. Graham conditionally. Today I retract it.

    August 3, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  4. richard in montana

    Leave the 14th alone. What needs fixing is the preying on the minorities by the big bad white folks in congressional seats of power.

    August 3, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  5. ramtruck2500

    Everytime this comes up someone "thinks" about this. It needs to be done away with period. We have a group of tea baggers which want to get rid of out directly elected senators, but have no thought on this. One question is if the republicans were to get rid of this birth citizen thing who would they have for slave labor??? Well we know thats not going to happen. Get rid of this so-called right! and do it now!

    August 3, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Gee, I thought only President Obama was trying to change the constitution? Isn't this unamerican? At least that's what the tea baggers say.

    August 3, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  7. olivia60

    The birthrights only belong to those who have become legal US citizens and entitled to all the rights that comes with that citizenship.

    August 3, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. payback

    .......I can honestly, say I'am progressive. I do hate to agree, with the conservatives. But, on this one they are right................................

    August 3, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  9. snow

    This is an amendment that needs to be changed. It was not intended for illegals to come here and drop their kids so they can go on welfare rolls and be a financial burden to the rest of the country.

    August 3, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  10. sonny chapman

    Now the Second Amendment, that must applied verbatim. Even if someone needs to keep RPGs for their "well trained militias".

    August 3, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  11. Zarathustra

    If you're born to those here illegally, you're not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States in the sense intended by the 14th Amendment, and hence not entitled to citizenship.

    Of course, the de facto rulers of this country want it to be flooded by invaders, so revoking "birthright citizenship" is a non-starter. End of story.

    August 3, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  12. Donald

    So what happen to following the constitution gop? Oh now u guys want it change, lol. my god dems running 4 office why don't u call these idiots out. First its take our country back now its change the constitution lol. Gop is too funny.

    August 3, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  13. XWngLady

    Are these people on crack??? They scream about the sanctity of life and then treat people like second class citizens once they're born IN THIS COUNTRY. WTH!! I am throughly convinced that Republicans are mentally disturbed.

    August 3, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. glib lib

    as if we don't have enough illegals here already

    August 3, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  15. Gary

    It`s a sad day when someone wants to ammend the constitution for pure political reasons.

    August 3, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. Gary Hengstler

    It will be interesting to see how the legal experts view this if the hearings are held. If a law is passed that says a child born in the U.S. is a citizen only of one or more of his or her parents already holds U.S. citizenship, that law ill be challenged, of course. And thought such a law makes sense, given today's realities, I would be fascinated to see how the strict constructionists on the US Supreme Court - Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts– analyze this when the challenged law finally lands on their docket. If they were to decide the Constitution is elastic enough to go beyond the specific wording "All persons born..." to modify it with a qualifer, conservatives would be hard pressed to explain how this would not be judicial activism. Or maybe this is the beginning the long haul of an effort to add a new amendment.

    August 3, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  17. Meka


    August 3, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  18. BirtherYo

    Cracker Please!

    August 3, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  19. a little sad

    Do they really think that they would be able to get this amendment ratified?

    The states could not even get the equal rights amendment ratified.

    I hope that this country isn't willing to ratify taking away civil rights while not willing to support civil rights.

    August 3, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  20. sammieb51

    Why is it that the GOP seems to think the Constitution is their 'playground' to interpret how they want WHEN IT SUITS THEM and when it doesn't suit them, cite how they are strict constitutionalists. This really smacks of the old KKK days when they wanted to bend the laws to create the Jim Crow laws.

    Yep, this 'party' really represents the people ha? As long as you are white and upwardly mobile ....

    August 3, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  21. R.Williams

    The 14th Amendment is also the one that creates the basis for Equal Protection. So is this really about the so-called 'Anchor Babies', or is this an end run to get rid of a fundamental American concept such as equal rights?

    August 3, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  22. carlos

    gop.........Games Over Patriotism...........WTF?? they know ZERO about the Constitution......they should ask this guy mc c., maybe one of the founding fathers whispered in his ear what they intended to do but he forgot as usual.....the maveric is soooooooo pathetic

    August 3, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. LouisianaProud

    I am not a Republican, but I do agree ILLIGAL's childrens should not automatically become citizens of the US. The 14th amendment was for those and rightly so born to parents of blacks who were slaves. That was a needed. The slaves were certainly not illigals.

    August 3, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Changing that is worrisome to me. What happens to the people who are here on visas and work permits that have stayed passed the date there?

    August 3, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  25. C Smith

    Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't these the same group of people who are always crying about how the Dems need to enforce the Constitution and not change it? Their hipocracy seems to know no bounds.

    August 3, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
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