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Critics Invoke Bobby Jindal in Birthright Citizenship Controversy

Bobby Jindal. AP Photo/Bill Feig

Updated 5:33 p.m. Eastern Time

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have in recent weeks suggestedthat Congress should reconsider so-called "birthright citizenship" - that is, the policy of granting U.S. citizenship to anyone born in the country, even if their parents are illegal immigrants - provided under the 14th Amendment.

Critics of that position are now hitting back in part by invoking Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who they say would not have been born a citizen under the proposed change -- a claim his office is disputing.

On a conference call today, opponents of changing the policy said that while Americans are "justifiably frustrated" with current immigration policy, eliminating birthright citizenship "would punish the innocent children of undocumented immigrants, which flies in the face of American values," according to Michele Waslin, Senior Policy Analyst at the Immigration Policy Center.

Elizabeth Wydra, Chief Counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, said that repeal of the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment would mark the first time "we the people amended our Constitution to make it less egalitarian." She also said arguments that birthright citizenship could be changed without amending the Constitution (through a narrow reading of the 14th Amendment) are faulty.

The repeal debate, Bill Ong Hing of the University of San Francisco School of Law suggested, is largely a "distraction" because of the difficulty of changing the Constitution. Any measure would first have to pass the House and Senate with a two thirds majority and then be approved by three fourths of states.

"Good luck with that," he said. "That just isn't going to happen."

Margaret Stock, an Attorney and Retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, went on to invoke Jindal, who she said was born in the United States while his mother was in the country on a student visa.

In an email, Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin called the move to associate the governor with the birthright debate "absurd."

"By the way, the Governor's mother was here as a permanent resident not on a student visa, which makes the question not just ridiculous but irrelevant," he said.

The New York Times reported in 2007 that Jindal "was born on June 10, 1971, in Baton Rouge to Hindu parents who had come to the United States six months before so his mother could pursue a graduate degree in nuclear physics at Louisiana State University."

In June, the SEIU identified Jindal, Former GOP Senator Pete Domenici, and Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on its list of Republicans who would not be citizens under the proposed policy.

Stock also responded to a reporter's question concerning the claim by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham that the birthright citizenship laws encourage illegal immigrants to come to the United States to have children. (These children are known to some as "anchor babies," though Hispanic groups object to the term.) She said the number of people who are motivated to come to America to create "anchor babies" is small and said they could be dealt with by outlawing the practice.

"You don't decide you're going to get rid of our freedoms because they're an incentive for some people to come to the United States," she said.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he would like to see congressional hearings on the issue of birthright citizenship.

"The 14th Amendment [has been] interpreted to provide that if you are born in the United States, you are a citizen no matter what," Kyl said. "So the question is, if both parents are here illegally, should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?"

Graham (R-S.C.), once a backer of comprehensive immigration reform, last week said that "birthright citizenship is a mistake" and that he may introduce a constitutional amendment to change the rules.

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