By Iowa City Press-Citizen
“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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (14th Amendment, U.S. Constitution)
Since it was ratified three years after the end of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has become a cornerstone of American civil rights. The amendment granted full citizenship to the millions of slaves who had never been recognized as citizens before — in fact, for the purposes of census taking, the Constitution originally considered them three-fifths of a person at best.
The amendment’s promises of due process and equal protection have provided the constitutional, legal basis for ensuring that the United States actually lives up to President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 description of a nation “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Pushed by the so-called “Radical Republicans” in the Reconstruction period, the 14th Amendment was a historic accomplishment that today’s Republican Party, 144 years later, should look back to with pride.
That’s why we can’t believe that any of our state and national lawmakers are even suggesting that Congress revisit this amendment and discuss the possibility of revoking the amendment’s guarantee of automatic “birthright citizenship” regardless of the race, class or citizenship of a newborn’s parents.
Repealing “birthright citizenship” would do nothing to address how the nation should best deal with the millions of undocumented immigrants already within its borders. Nor would it address the global economic reasons why so many immigrants want to come to the United States in the first place.
All it would do is increase the number of children born in the U.S. without any legal status.
It’s unlikely that the current discussions and state party platform planks are anything more than political grandstanding. After all, changing any constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress or a national convention approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures. Neither option seems likely in today’s fractured political environment.But it’s chilling nonetheless for any of our state and national leaders to even consider undoing an amendment that has become a necessary step for helping a nation of immigrants achieve the American dream.