Watch CBSN Live

Huckabee: Don't Punish Children of Illegal Immigrants

Mike Huckabee
The former Arkansas governor and former candidate has a hit talk show built around his amiable personality - and may now be focused more on media than politics. But Huckabee, who won the 2008 Iowa caucuses, remains popular in the party for his ability to sell a social conservative message without coming off as mean-spirited; "I'm a conservative," he says, "but I'm not mad at anybody." More Coverage on Mike Huckabee AP Photo/Danny Johnston

Former GOP presidential contender and potential 2012 candidate Mike Huckabee said Wednesday that he does not support a repeal of the 14th Amendment -- a part of the Constitution other Republican leaders have called into question recently because it guarantees citizenship for children born in the United States, regardless of their parents' immigration status.

Huckabee said in an interview Wednesday that he does not support a repeal, NPR reports.

While the former Arkansas governor said, "I'm not for an amnesty program," he added, "You do not punish a child for something the parent did."

The 14th Amendment has come under scrutiny from Republicans as the nation takes a closer look at its immigration problems. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), once a backer of comprehensive immigration reform, said last month that "birthright citizenship is a mistake" and that he may introduce a constitutional amendment to change the rules. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and other Republicans have advocated for congressional hearings on the issue of birthright citizenship.

Huckabee told NPR that the nation is better off giving all children opportunities to succeed as citizens, even if they were not born in the United States.

"The question is: Is [an undocumented child born outside of the U.S.] better off going to college and becoming a neurosurgeon or a banker or whatever he might become, and becoming a taxpayer, and in the process having to apply for and achieve citizenship, or should we make him pick tomatoes?" Huckabee said. "I think it's better if he goes to college and becomes a citizen."

A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that in 2009, there were about 4 million U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrant parents living in the country. Another 1.1 million foreign-born children of undocumented immigrants resided in the U.S. in 2009.

An estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008, or about 8 percent, were the offspring of undocumented immigrants, the study shows. Pew's figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau's March 2009 Current Population Survey.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue