January 6, 2011
Unconstitutional Bill Introduced As Members Recite The Constitution In Pledge To Uphold It
WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today called on Congress to reject proposed legislation intended to deny U.S. citizens the fundamental protections of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The bill, H.R. 140, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) late Wednesday, aims to gut the constitutional guarantee of citizenship enshrined in the 14th Amendment and to overturn long-established Supreme Court precedent. The bill was introduced on the first day of the new congressional session, shortly before members of Congress went to the House floor to recite the U.S. Constitution in its entirety, including the text of the 14th Amendment, in a public pledge to support and defend the Constitution.
“How ironic it is that this unconstitutional bill, designed to subvert the 14th Amendment citizenship clause, would be introduced at the same time that members of Congress are on the House floor reciting the text of the Constitution and affirming their commitment to defend and uphold it,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Citizenship for all born on U.S. soil has been one of the Constitution’s most essential engines of equality and fairness under the law. It is too important to be defined by the political whims of any era. This radical unconstitutional bill should be soundly rejected.”
Since its creation, the Constitution has guaranteed U.S. citizenship to every child born in the U.S., with very limited exceptions. Constitutional citizenship represents America’s commitment to equality, fairness and justice under the law.
H.R. 140 attempts to upend the 14th Amendment by rewriting the citizenship clause to restrict citizenship to only three categories of people: children of U.S. citizens or nationals, children of permanent residents and children of non-citizens in active-duty military service. This radical proposal would deny citizenship to large segments of U.S. society including U.S.-born children to parents with lawful status such as refugees, foreign investors, scientists, engineers, artists, athletes, scholars and graduate students. The proposed legislation violates the constitutional guarantee that all people born in the U.S. and under its jurisdiction are U.S. citizens entitled to equal protection under the law.
On Wednesday, a group of state legislators announced that they will introduce bills in their state legislatures this coming session that would similarly undermine the 14th Amendment by requiring states to deny standard birth certificates to many U.S. citizen babies born in the U.S. to immigrant parents. The proposed legislation would also require all people in the U.S., whether citizens or not, to prove their status before they can receive a standard birth certificate for their baby. Currently, there is no such requirement.
“In America, rights are based on fairness and equal treatment under the law, not who your parents are or what they did or whether today’s politicians approve of them,” said Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Citizenship at birth has long been the law of the land and for good reason; any attempt to subvert constitutionally protected rights to citizenship is unconstitutional and should be rejected outright.”