Republicans, known as staunch defenders of the Constitution, now want to readdress an amendment.
The 14th Amendment came under fire earlier this month when a group of GOP leaders, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jon Kyl of Arizona, decided that the amendment’s provision granting citizenship to people born in the United States is being taken advantage of by immigrants.
Rep. Elton Gallegly, a Simi Valley Republican, agrees. It’s an issue he has been lobbying for during the past 24 years.
Gallegly said the provision in the 14th Amendment granting citizenship to people born in the United States should be reconsidered because it was written “to provide birthright citizenship for those forced to come here against their will.”
Adopted in 1868, during the aftermath of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment aimed to ensure equal protection for ex-slaves and grant birthright citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.”
Since it was a Republican Congress that drafted and passed the 14th Amendment without a single Democratic vote, local political leaders and experts feel that Republicans are simply posturing to make headlines before elections in November.
“I think that I speak for a lot of Democrats in that the 14th Amendment is settled law and has been for 150 years, and the language is very clear that persons born inside U.S. are U.S. citizens,” said David Atkins, first vice chair of the Ventura County Democratic Party. “There are good reasons to not allow a state to capriciously decide who is a citizen and who is not a citizen. The 14th Amendment guarantees a number of rights, among which it would be very clear definition to be a citizen in this country by birthright. To play with that opens up a huge can of worms that allows for a lot of discriminatory practices.”
But Gallegly, along with other Republican supporters, contends that people are violating immigration laws and illegally entering the county to get citizenship benefits, which means fewer benefits that American citizens would otherwise receive.
Gallegly has proposed that the country needs to examine the intent of the 14th Amendment.
“Are we providing birthright citizenship today to people who were forced to come here against their will, or providing birthright citizenship to people violating the law?” he asked.
With elections around the corner, political experts suggest that Republicans are using this debate to create more controversy surrounding the Arizona Senate Bill 1070.
“This plays really well with the political base and the support for the Arizona issue, but they can’t be serious if they think they can change the Constitution. It’s no more than a political spectacle,” said Sean Kelly, a political science professor at Cal State University, Channel Islands.
Kelly believes that perhaps not this time around, but in future elections, Republicans are going to regret coming forward with this issue.
“In the long run, this is a really big mistake,” he said. “Demographics are shifting dramatically. The majority of voters will not be white in the future. This is another example of the Republican Party being tone deaf.”