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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Civil Rights Groups Block State Attacks on Constitutional Citizenship

February 10, 2011 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Civil rights groups have successfully defeated legislation that would redefine state citizenship in South Dakota.

The bill called on South Dakota to enter into a compact with other states to challenge the 14th Amendment in Congress.  States that are a part of the compact would have been required to issue two sets of birth certificates — one set to children born of undocumented parents and the other to children born of at least one parent with citizenship.

The South Dakota House Judiciary Committee ultimately dismissed the bill, citing that it would violate the South Dakota Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights for citizens and undocumented residents.

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota played an integral role in defeating the bill. Despite the progress being made to defeat these bills across the country, they are still on the table in a number of states. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is monitoring similar attacks on citizenship in Arizona, Montana, and Oklahoma. 

The American Citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment states explicitly that “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.” Constitutional citizenship stipulated in the 14th Amendment was intended to put citizenship above the preferences and prejudices of any politician or era, and to ensure that all those born on U.S. soil are treated equally with rights of citizenship that no government may restrict.

“Bills like this, that try to rewrite the 14th Amendment, bills like this that try and say some citizens are better than others or some children are better than others [are] wrong. It’s un-American,” said Niki Zupanic, public policy director at ACLU of Montana.

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