Immigration: The 14th Amendment was written to guarantee citizenship for freed slaves. It's been misinterpreted to give citizenship to children of illegal aliens. Now some GOP leaders want to restore its original meaning.

In Texas this year, some 60,000 so-called "anchor babies" will be born to the 1.5 million illegal aliens estimated to reside there. They're called that because under the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment they're automatic citizens, encouraging more illegals to arrive and making it hard to deport those already here.

"There is a problem," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, told NBC's "Meet The Press" Sunday. "To provide an incentive for illegal immigrants to come here so that their children can be U.S. citizens does, in fact, draw more people to our country. I do think that it's time for us to secure our borders and enforce the law and allow this conversation about the 14th Amendment to continue."

"The 14th Amendment (has been) interpreted to provide that if you are born in the United States, you are a citizen no matter what," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said a week earlier on the CBS show "Face The Nation." "So the question is, if both parents are here illegally, should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?" Kyl is open to a hearing on the matter of birthright citizenship. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Congress should consider the guarantee of birthright citizenship provided by the 14th Amendment.

A new IBD/TIPP Poll shows solid opposition to changing the Constitution to address the anchor baby issue (see chart). But does the amendment need amending or has it just been wrongly interpreted by those supporting illegal immigration?

The 14th Amendment reads: "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" (italics added). Illegal aliens are still foreign nationals and are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction, except for purposes of deportation, and therefore their children born on American soil should not automatically be considered U.S. citizens.

The purpose of the 14th Amendment was essentially to forever repeal the Dred Scott decision, grant full citizenship to all blacks and elevate citizenship from a state to a national determination. It was not to protect illegal aliens coming across the border.

poll08092010aDuring debate on the 14th Amendment, Jacob Merritt Howard, a senator from Michigan who helped draft the amendment after the Civil War, stated quite clearly:

"This will not, of course, include persons in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons."

Rep. John Bingham of Ohio, regarded as the father of the 14th Amendment, said it meant "every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your constitution itself a natural-born citizen."

We're reminded of the case of Elvira Arellano, an illegal alien who in 2007 fought deportation on the grounds her then- 8-year-old son, Saul, was an American citizen, a beneficiary of the flawed concept of birthright citizenship.

In a recent interview with Tucson's local ABC affiliate, KGUN9-TV, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was asked how to solve the problem of mixed-status families. Brewer, not pandering or tap-dancing like most politicians would, answered, "They can take their children back with them."

That sounds harsh, but if you break the nation's immigration laws, being pregnant should not be an extenuating circumstance. The original intent of Congress (which is what should matter in the courts) is clear: Just being born in the U.S.A. is not enough.

So what do we do with the kids already here? Their citizenship could be grandfathered in under a new law.

As we've said before, becoming a U.S. citizen should require more than your mother successfully sneaking past the U.S. Border Patrol.

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