August 13th, 2010
02:38 PM ET
10 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. GREG-AZ

    Remember back when these same GOPers felt like ANY suggestion of amending the US constitution was right up there with treason? My how the mighty have fallen. The hypocrisy is amicable yet somehow not THAT surprising. They could be channeling this energy to create new immigration legislation even if it is only those 3 who work with the Dems in the Senate the measure could pass. The GOP has done everything in their power to hold the Legislative branch hostage over the last 18months and the slow recovery of our economy is equally on them. Everyone will have to answer for their actions sooner or later and I for one hope its SOONER THAN LATER.

    August 13, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
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