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Never Amend the Constitution to Take Away Rights

Created: 20 August, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
3 min read

   As an election nears, we always hear increasingly extreme rhetoric from the Republican Party on immigration. But this time around, their fire has turned on the most vulnerable among us; the children. This shameful tactic, which is designed to fire up their most angry anti-immigrant supporters, is not even focused on immigrant children, but rather the American citizen children of immigrants. It is wrong, and it must end.

   The right wing and their supporters claim that it is time to “relook” at the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which says that if you are born in the United States, regardless of your parents’ status, you are a “natural born citizen”. It was passed in the wake of the Civil War to guarantee the citizenship of slaves and their children. Tampering with this great cornerstone of our society is unthinkable. The Constitution should be amended only to add rights, not to take them away.

   For more than 160 years, we have held firm to the idea that the child does not bear blame for the transgressions of the parents. In fact, we go further than that and believe that all children in our nation start with a clean slate and the right to be whatever they would like to be. This was a revolutionary idea in its day, and remains part of our unique American value system. To begin to say, “well, if your parents were here without papers, perhaps you are not as much a citizen” is a shocking move for a country built on equality.

   In 2006, I introduced a bill that went in the direction of supporting child citizens-and ensuring further that the problems of their parents do not overly effect their chances at a good life here in America. The inspiration for H.R. 182, The Child Citizen Protection Act, came when I was alerted to the fact that immigration judges were not allowed to consider the effects of a deportation on the child citizens whose families were being broken apart. This struck me as the wrong way to treat children. I wrote a bill which, if it were to become law, would restore partial discretion to immigration judges in cases where removal of an immigrant is clearly against the best interest of a child that is a United States citizen.

   There is a stark divide between the right thing to do – pass a comprehensive immigration reform including parts like my Child Citizen Protection Act – and the action that the right wing is demanding – deporting everyone and perhaps stripping children of their citizenship. Using this anti-immigrant rhetoric and seeking a repeal of the 14th Amendment is at odds with the Republican Party’s historic stance; after all it was their party that passed the 14th Amendment in the first place.

   The anti-immigrant fever that has gripped some in this nation must be dealt with. We cannot allow our country to slip further along towards a place where specific ethnic groups are made to feel unwelcome. We are a nation of immigrants, and a nation that has always supported the rights of children. Seeking to strip some children of their citizenship is not just wrong, it’s un-American.

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