The 14th Amendment has been a part of the U.S. Constitution since 1868. It's purpose was to grant full citizenship and rights to newly emancipated slaves, clarifying that, "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." And now, almost 150 years later, about half of the GOP candidates say we should rethink birthright citizenship.
Birthright citizenship grants American citizenship to all those born on U.S. soil, including the children of undocumented immigrants. Today they're called "anchor children." The controversial term has been thrown around by many candidates, including Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. Front runner Trump has gone as far to say that the practice of granting citizenship to these children might be unconstitutional.
The GOP candidate pool is split on the issue. Ohio Governor John Kasich says, "Let these people who are born here be citizens and that's the end of it." Marco Rubio also supports the amendment as is. But Senator Lindsey Graham thinks it's a bad practice to give citizenship based on birthright. One of this week's Face the Nation guests, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, is speaking out against birthright citizenship.
"Absolutely, we should end granting automatic birthright citizenship to the children of those who are here illegally," because he says, "It incentivizes people breaking the law and coming here illegally."
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, also joining us this week, seems to have changed his tune on the debate. Last week he said, "I think all of this stuff needs to be reexamined in light of the current circumstances," but on Thursday argued, "Birthright citizenship is a part of the constitution. I mean, it's just a simple fact."
Has the 14th Amendment lost its meaning? The amendment was enacted after the Civil War to guarantee everyone born in the U.S. would have full rights and citizenship and "equal protection of the laws". Some candidates are saying that today, it provides a loophole for undocumented workers and their children. The Supreme Court has upheld the amendment to protect those born in the U.S. time and time again, regardless of their parents' citizenship. But this new debate, spurred by Donald Trump, could change that.