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Battle brewing over birthright citizenship

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

An L.A. Times editorial recently challenged the prospect of modifying the 14th amendment’s birthright citizenship provision, categorizing those who support repealing it as part of a fringe element. 

“The 14th Amendment to the Constitution speaks in unusually emphatic language...Not most persons or only those who are white or who are born to citizens. All persons,” the editorial staff writes of the phrase “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."  “Yet some Americans hold a fringe view and would deny citizenship to those whose parents entered this country illegally,” the Times continued. 

Among those holding a “fringe view” and catering to “political posturing” are politicians like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).  At the same time, the Times also recognized the middle class’s deep concern about birthright citizenship.  Among the figures the Times cites for middle class concern are the following: 

-9.5 percent unemployment 

-75 percent rise in foreclosures in urban areas earlier this year 

-A drop in income the first part of this year 

-The nation’s doubling Latino rate from 1990-2008 

-The emergence of a Latino majority by 2050 

“As they attempt to hold back that tide, those who are unsettled by it have turned to the idea of denying citizenship to those born here,” the editorial stated of these fears, implying that some sort of racial complex is harbored by the middle class. 

Those that might be characterized as “fringe” in light of recent legal steps are Arizona residents.  According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 28 percent believed children of illegal aliens should be granted birthright citizenship, while 67 percent disagreed.  And Arizona isn’t the only one taking a stab at the birthright question. 

According to a CNN poll asking a similar question of people nationwide, 49 percent of Americans favor repealing birthright citizenship, while 51 percent oppose the repeal of the amendment. In this poll, those in opposition to the repeal are in the majority but only by a slim margin. 

When it comes to reevaluating the original intent of the 14th amendment, to label those that sincerely want a repeal or reevaluation of the amendment is not a fair-minded criticism.  The narrow gap between Americans who support and oppose a repeal shows that a nation is actually grappling with the text of the Constitution, attempting to find what significance it plays in this country’s border security future. 

In an era of big government under both the Bush and Obama years, career politicians who’ve never been forced to justify their actions with the actual text of the Founders might finally have something to fear: a populace informing itself of constitutional principles. 

Could it be that the 14th amendment debate is only the beginning of a constitutional revolution in future elections?

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