The 14th Amendment and U.S. Citizenship

On Thursday, January 6, 2011, the 112th Congress of the United States came into power. And on the floor of the House of Representatives, the United States Constitution was read in its entirety. It is an eloquent document that defines our Democratic Republic. Yet, on January 5th, on day before it was read, 14 state legislators from throughout the United States, gathered in Washington D.C., seeking to change the 14th Amendment of the United States. This Amendment states that “all persons born or naturalized” in the United States are citizens of the U.S. These lawmakers specifically want to deny children born in the United States to immigrants U.S. Citizenship and the documentation needed to prove their citizenship. Reading and listening to the U.S. Constitution should not be two separate events.

Millions of people are unemployed, state budgets are being cut, people are losing their healthcare and these 14 state legislators think that denying U.S. citizenship to children born in the United States is or paramount importance. I wonder if they know the history behind the 14th Amendment? It was adopted on July 9, 1868 as one of the Reconstruction Amendments. Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship, overruling the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision of 1857, which denied U.S. Citizenship to blacks.

The Citizenship Clause reads as follows:

“All 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. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

These are indeed beautiful and eloquent words to live by. So let us not just read the U.S. Constitution, but listen to it.