49% of Americans support repealing birthright citizenship: CNN poll
As leading Republicans signal support for rescinding the Constitutional guarantee of US citizenship to those born in America, a new CNN poll finds that 49 percent of the American public would favor doing so.
Fifty-one percent of those surveyed opposed the idea when asked, “Would you favor or oppose a Constitutional amendment to prevent children born here from becoming U.S. citizens unless their parents are also U.S. citizens?”
The concept of birthright citizenship was enshrined in the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1868 — on the Republican Party’s leadership — during the aftermath of the Civil War, largely to ensure that slaves and their children attained citizenship. It has since served to preclude the government from granting citizenship on the basis of race or politics.
Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), say altering the 14th Amendment could help address the issue of illegal immigration by preventing the US-born children of undocumented immigrants and tourists from attaining American citizenship.
The poll, released Wednesday, reflects the mainstreaming of an idea that has long been relegated to the fringes. While GOP leaders have lined up behind the cause, former Republican officials and party strategists have derided the idea as too radical.
Alan Keyes, a staunch conservative activist and former GOP presidential candidate, slammed Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham — who recently initiated the debate — (R-SC) for toying “lightly” with the 14th Amendment.
“If citizenship is not a birthright then it must be a grant of the government,” Keyes said last week. “And if it is a grant of the government, it could curtail that grant in all the ways that fascists and totalitarians always want to.”
Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold (WI), chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, has denied GOP requests to hold hearings into the matter.
The Republican stance could be political posturing for the November midterms as immigration anxieties run high, as amending the constitution would require the support of a two-thirds majority in Congress, which is highly unlikely.
Of the Republicans touting the issue, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “They’ve either taken leave of their senses or their principles.”
The CNN poll, conducted over the phone by Opinion Research Corporation on August 6-10, 2010, surveyed 1,009 adult Americans, and has a 3 percent margin of error.