It's becoming increasingly clear that both of Arizona's U.S. senators would support congressional hearings on the 14th Amendment's guarantee of citizenship to U.S.-born children of immigrants.
In a Sunday interview on CBS' "Face the Nation," Republican Whip Jon Kyl said there is a question about the interpretation of the constitutional provision. "And so the question is: If both parents are here illegally, should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?"
Kyl said that when Republican colleague Lindsey Graham of South Carolina suggested pursuing the issue, he countered that hearings should be held to elicit testimony from constitutional experts.
The amendment states in part: "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."
U.S. Sen. John McCain on Tuesday sent out a statement saying congressional hearings "are always warranted" when congressional members discuss amendments.
"Our Founding Fathers intentionally made the process of amending our Constitution extremely difficult," he said. "I believe that the Constitution is a strong, complete and carefully crafted document that has successfully governed our nation for centuries, and any proposal to amend the Constitution should receive extensive and thoughtful consideration."
He closed by that saying implementation of his and Kyl's 10-point border-security plan, however, "will assist in addressing concerns associated with this issue." Their plan does not deal specifically with automatic citizenship at birth, but it calls for enhanced security, including 3,000 National Guard troops, an assurance that repeat illegal crossers go to jail, and hardship duty for agents in rural, high-traffick areas.
Former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez, a Democrat who has been outspoken about immigrant rights since the advent of SB 1070, called the senators' comments "a stunning reversal on both their parts. But this is what we've come to - it's now become politically the right thing to do."
He said the amendment "defines who America is and what America is" - and though he feels confident that there can be no other interpretation of the 14th Amendment, that doesn't mean there isn't a downside.
"It's just one more act of the demonization of our community," he said. "We're being characterized as leeches, welfare frauds and now, that we are illegitimately here."
It's no small process to amend the U.S. Constitution, which has been amended 27 times. It takes either a constitutional convention or a two-thirds of both houses of Congress to vote to propose an amendment, which then must be approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures or in ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states.
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at 573-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org