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Rep. Luis Gutierrez Headshot

Why We Should Welcome McConnell's Demand for Hearings on Rescinding 14th Amendment

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The "your papers, please" hysteria spreading through the Republican Party has reached a new low. Now, they want to corrupt the U.S. Constitution to promote their opposition to immigrants and immigration. Senior leaders in the House and Senate are introducing legislation and calling for hearings to explore whether we should change the U.S. Constitution to ensure that more people in the United States are denied citizenship or legal immigration status. Specifically, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined an array of Republican lawmakers who feel we should examine whether to rescind all or part of the 14th amendment to the Constitution to prevent some children born in the U.S. from being granted U.S. citizenship. The pro-life, pro-family Republicans are now pro-neonatal detention and deportation. It isn't enough to drive out the people not born here, now they want to drive out the ones that were.

Actually, I agree with Senator McConnell. We absolutely should hold hearings as soon as possible to discuss whether we should amend the U.S. Constitution to make newborns deportable. We need a high-level national discussion in both Houses of Congress on the issue of whether to station federal ICE agents in every maternity ward and delivery room right between the OB-GYN and the expectant father.

Imagine a United States where every birth initiates an investigation to determine the citizenship and immigration status of each parent. Let's have the hearing so we can take careful notes when the Republican's witness explains how this government intrusion into maternal and child health -- burdening our health care system and discouraging pregnant women from seeking medical care (while perhaps discouraging claims of paternity) -- is justified to secure our borders and protect the core liberties of America. I would love to hear the opening remarks of Judiciary Committee Members Lindsey Graham in the Senate or Lamar Smith in the House broadcast live from coast-to-coast on C-SPAN. I can hear it now. "Mr. Chairman, I would like to express my support for a full federal background check and proof of citizenship for every precious human life."

While we are at it, I think we should subpoena prominent Republicans like Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico to explain how they have ruined our country with their automatic U.S. citizenship. Under at least some of the legislative proposals supported by the Republicans, neither one would be citizens because one or more of their parents were not permanent legal residents of the U.S. at the time of their birth. Let's get Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo and NASA Astronaut Jose "Astro Jose" Hernandez on the witness stand to defend all that they have robbed from the United States by usurping U.S. citizenship. At long last, the GOP has come up with the legislative strategy to guarantee that no man or woman can rise from humble origins, with a father who is legally present on a student visa, to sit in the Oval Office as President of the United States.

I really want to hear the Republican argument. Let's hear why the 14th amendment, which guarantees citizenship and equal protection under the law regardless of the race or nationality of your parents, is a law whose time has come and gone. Please explain to the American people how the 14th amendment that resolved the issue of African-American citizenship after emancipation and was the critical underpinning of the civil rights movement in the United States, ought to be cast off now because the parchment paper it is written on has grown yellow and curled. Just the expressions on the faces of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus during such a hearing would make the whole exercise worth it to me.

The federal government won a preliminary injunction against Arizona's SB1070 immigration law on the grounds that the federal government's authority over immigration matters preempts the states from such intrusions. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, I say. I think the Senate and the House ought to call immediate hearings as soon as we reconvene in September to put the Republican's immigration proposals up against Democratic ones and see which side is serious about rules, enforcement, legality and cracking down on employers. Which side is for immigrants taking personal responsibility and getting right with the law and which side is just blowing smoke in an election year.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Majority Leader, and distinguished Chairmen and Chairwomen of the committees of jurisdiction, I rise to respectfully request that you call their bluff.