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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

Repeal of Citizenship Clause Would Carry Heavy Consequences

May 12, 2011 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Instead of helping to fix the U.S.’s broken immigration system, repealing or limiting the scope of the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment would actually make things worse by increasing the number of undocumented immigrants and creating significant bureaucratic and financial burdens for all Americans, according to a panel of immigration and civil rights experts.

“No, this would not fix our nation’s broken immigration system,” said Margaret Stock, an adjunct instructor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. “In fact, it would break our nation’s immigration system even further.” Stock was one of sever experts who discussed the impact of repealing birthright citizenship during a panel discussion this week at the Center for American Progress (CAP).

The American Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment defines what it means to be a U.S. citizen and states 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.” The Citizenship Clause has come under attack by some federal and state lawmakers due to Washington’s failure to reach consensus on the future of immigration policy.

The panelists at CAP said that repealing the Citizenship Clause would require a large, new and expensive federal bureaucracy to investigate the citizenship status of parents before birth certificates could be issued to their newborn children. Sam Fulwood III, a senior fellow at CAP and co-author of “Less than Citizens,” a new issue brief, said repeal would put “Big Brother” into every maternity ward in the country. Based on his research, Fulwood estimated that departments of State and Homeland Security – which routinely charge fees for immigrant visas and related services – could charge parents up to $600 to verify the legal status of each birth. And the verification process itself could also take weeks, months or even years, he said.

Several panelists warned that repealing or limiting the scope of the Citizenship Clause would blur the line between who is a citizen and who is not, creating a U.S. caste system that would forever relegate those deemed to be of lesser status from fully participating and contributing to our nation.

“One of the practical affects of this, though, is really to disenfranchise individuals who would otherwise be able to help shape their own destiny by participating in the political process,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Repealing the amendment would betray core American values, like the belief that every person born in the U.S. has an equal opportunity at achieving the American dream.  Instead, we would have people born in the U.S. who would be classified as illegal immigrants.”

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