The14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution could not be more clear: “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.”
But what's clear to many legal scholars and most Americans is not so clear to others who just don't like what it says.
Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Republican, professes great devotion to the Constitution — especially the Second Amendment — but that part about “all persons born” is something he doesn't like or understand.
As the Associated Press reports, Mr. Pearce thinks that the words in the amendment (adopted in 1868 after the Civil War) were meant to refer to African-Americans and should not cover the children of illegal immigrants.
Mr. Pearce is the author of the divisive Arizona law that puts local law enforcement officers in the unsuitable role of enforcing immigration controls, which is a federal responsibility.
Now he wants to punish the children of illegal immigrants.
He proposes to write a law that says his state will no longer issue birth certificates unless at least one parent can prove legal status.
The whiff of hypocrisy is more than a little strong. Conservatives such as Mr. Pearce make a great show of venerating the Constitution as a sacred text to be followed strictly.
They castigate so-called activist judges who would stray beyond the plain meaning.
However, when they face the inconvenient truth that the children of the illegal immigrants become citizens according to the Constitution, which attaches no asterisk to “all persons born,” they are eager to forget their own principles.
Of course, the 19th-century framers of this amendment did not anticipate that legal immigration would become such a great problem in the 21st century. But it says what it says — and very plainly at that.
The solution to the immigration problem should not involve picking on innocent children born in the United States — American children, according to the Constitution.