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Immigration Reform Today: Republicans Rally for Birthright Citizenship's End, But Latinos Fight Back

First Posted: Aug 19, 2015 01:05 PM EDT
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Republican presidential candidates have questioned the 14th Amendment, which allows U.S.-born children the automatic right to citizenship, but prominent Latinos and Latino-based organizations are criticizing calls to change the law.

Businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has taken the credit for engaging the immigration reform discussion, and his new reform plan includes changes to the 14th Amendment, often referred to as "birthright citizenship."

According to Trump, he wants the end of birthright citizenship and claimed the Amendment is "the biggest magnet for illegal immigration." His campaign cited an November 2011 Rasmussen Reports survey, polling 1,000 likely voters, and 65 percent opposed automatic U.S. citizenship to a child born to undocumented immigrant parents.

With 29 percent, respondents stated the U.S.-born child, with undocumented parents, should have citizenship.

Trump's birthright citizenship stance attracted plenty of attention from both sides of the political aisle.

First, as the Library of Congress shows, the 14th Amendment, Section 1, reads:

"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, or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Fellow Republican presidential candidate, and Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker said birthright citizenship should "absolutely" end. Walker, who was on the campaign trail in Iowa, mentioned that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, had the same belief.

Walker is not wrong.

In 1993, during an address in the Senate and broadcast on C-SPAN 2, Reid spoke about immigration, stating "no sane country" would "reward" immigrants by offering U.S. citizenship and full access to public and social services. He also introduced legislation to revoke birthright citizenship, but it is an issue he has since abandoned.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, also running for the Republican presidential nomination, tweeted his support to end birthright citizenship on Aug. 17.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another Republican presidential candidate, holds a different view from Jindal, Trump and Walker. Bush told reporters in South Carolina, "This is a constitutionally protected right, and I don't support revoking it."

Clarifying specifically on birthright citizenship, Bush later added, "I just reject out of hand."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another Republican presidential candidate, was U.S.-born from Cuban immigrants. He also opposes Trump's call to repeal the birthright citizenship provision. Rubio told reporters in Iowa, "I'm open to doing things that prevent people who deliberately come to the U.S. for purposes of taking advantage of the 14th Amendment, but I'm not in favor of repealing it."

But the discussion of birthright citizenship is not new, it has been a topic within Congress.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., introduced the "Birthright Citizenship Act of 2015" (S. 45) earlier this year. His bill would amend the "Immigration and Nationality Act" to grant U.S.-born children with citizenship if the child's parents are part of three criteria: "(1) a U.S. citizen or national, (2) a lawful permanent resident alien whose residence is in the United States, or (3) an alien performing active service in the U.S. Armed Forces."

"Even Harry Reid has acknowledged that it's crazy to grant birthright citizenship to every child born in the U.S. It's an absolute magnet that encourages more illegal aliens to come here," stated Vitter in March. "We have a whole industry of birth tourism, which highlights just one part of our very broken immigration system. Ending birthright citizenship would dramatically improve this situation."

Vitter has introduced similar "Birthright Citizenship Act" bills in 2011 and 2013. Vitter's 2011 bill received co-sponsorship support from Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, introduced a similar bill, H.R. 140, earlier this year. He also introduced similar measures for several previous years.

Latinos have become vocal in opposition of birthright citizenship changes.

From the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Hispanic Media Director Pablo Manriquez stated the Republican presidential candidates "have taken an ugly and dark turn" instead of providing guaranteed rights for all people -- citizens or undocumented.

"Attacking and criminalizing children - let alone citizen children born to immigrant parents - is the lowest form of political buffoonery...even for the GOP," Manriquez said in a statement to Latin Post, adding that the GOP focus should shift to providing comprehensive immigration reform.

Manriquez noted fellow Republican presidential candidate, and current Ohio governor, John Kasich was an original sponsor to a 1993 bill (H.R. 1191) to limit citizenship to U.S.-born children.

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a nonpartisan coalition of national Latino organizations and leaders, released a statement in April stating denial of birthright citizenship "would abandon constitutional principles of equality and liberty, reinstate widespread discrimination."

"Such legislation would result in an underclass of Latinos that would be subject to disparate and adverse treatment based solely on their ethnicity, the national origin and race of their parents, and signal a return to a pre-Civil War constitutional era," the NHLA statement continued.

Voto Latino President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar had voiced her opposition when the House conducted a hearing about the topic.

"Republicans are trying to throw out the Constitution and debate an amendment that the Supreme Court affirmed 115 years ago," Kumar stated. "They want to send us back in time and create a permanent underclass of Americans. We have already lived that history, and our country continues to heal from its pain and division every day."

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For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.

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