08/13/2010 01:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Janet Napolitano Calls Talk Of Repealing Birthright Citizenship 'Just Wrong'

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Friday that she was "surprised" by Republican-led efforts to amend the 14th amendment and reverse the country's longstanding policy of granting birthright citizenship

Addressing the debate over the issue while making a guest appearance at the White House daily briefing, the DHS Secretary called the movement that is gaining steam on the GOP side of the aisle, including among lawmakers formally sympathetic to immigration reform, "just wrong."

She declined, however, to address the support for this movement offered by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a former but still potential White House ally on immigration reform.

"I have to tell you I have [been] surprised, to say the least, that discussions we have had about amending the U.S. constitution [have happened] before we can even get to the table about amending the statutes that actually carry out immigration policy," Napolitano said. "Any talk about amending the constitution is just wrong."

Those remarks made Napolitano the highest-ranking administration official yet to weigh in on the debate about the future of the 14th amendment. Though, later on in the briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made it clear that the president shared his homeland security secretary's sentiments.

If Republicans were worried about illegal immigrants coming into this country for the purposes of getting their unborn children U.S. citizenship, Gibbs stressed, the fastest way to resolve the issue was through legislation, not changes to the constitution.

"The process for augmenting the constitution takes a long time," said Gibbs. "With a little leadership we could have comprehensive immigration reform."

That self-professed constitutionalists within the GOP tent were now open to tinkering with the constitution, he added, was "rich in its irony it is wrong in its approach."