Are you sure we should reinterpret the 14th Amendment?
Published: October 8, 2010 at 7:51 am
If you’ve studied the 14th Amendment and determined that it’s been misinterpreted, then you have plenty of company among those who believe only children of native-born or naturalized citizens should be granted citizenship.
But let’s examine where that leaves you.
There is the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by the federal courts, which does not agree with you. Neither the Arizona Legislature nor a simple majority in Congress can amend the U.S. Constitution. To amend the Constitution you need a two-thirds vote of Congress and the backing of three-fourths of the states.
I know it’s frustrating when the process does not readily give you the answers you wish, but there never was any intention that the Constitution could be easily amended.
Or you can figure out a way to get a case before a federal judge, with the hope that he or she might reverse long-standing precedents. And if you have ever spoken out against activism in the judicial system, you may want to re-consider this option because, in view of the precedents, your best hope is for an activist judge to agree with your viewpoint.
By the way, does your position mean that one or both parents have to be citizens? The answer to the question has consequences.
So let’s assume your effort is successful. Of course it does not necessarily negate the citizenship of the 312 million people in this country, but they are all going to have to prove they are citizens under the new requirements.
For instance, you have a birth certificate, but that does not prove you are a citizen under your new system. Your parents have birth certificates, but that does not prove they are citizens. Are you beginning to see the problem?
You would need to go back to when your ancestors entered the country, under what conditions and laws they entered, look at their subsequent claims to citizenship and have the source documents to prove it.
You would not be able to vote or hold office, until you were able to prove you were a citizen qualified under the new laws. You could not receive any other benefits of citizenship until you had proven your qualifications.
Can you imagine the difficulty of the task, the cost and the size of the bureaucracy and judicial system to deal with this? It would collapse under a weight of paper. The enormity of the task, in relationship to the benefits gained, boggles the mind.
So, of course, if your new policy works its way through the courts or in a constitutional amendment and you are no longer a citizen by place of birth, but by right of parentage, guess what? There will have to be some sort of general amnesty (the new scarlet letter “A” word of American politics) to avert the chaos that would ensue from your new policy.
Some sort of line dividing those who qualify from those who don’t or some sort of timeline will be required. Some sort of forgiveness or acknowledgement will be needed stating that those already claiming citizenship were in fact citizens. Given the broad use of the word in today’s jargon — this would amount to “amnesty.”
The mechanics of such a policy could be quite arbitrary and could violate other sections of equal protection and due process of the Constitution. And what will we have accomplished for border security, other than taking our eye off the ball?
The answer suggests itself: We would have been down a path of tremendous diverted energy and resources with little to show for it.
So here we are at the beginning. After much review and study, do you believe the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has been misinterpreted?
— Joseph Sigg is director of government relations for the Arizona Farm Bureau.