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Herbert questions amendment granting birthright citizenship

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Aug. 27, 2010 at 5:25 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert is adding a new dimension the immigration debate by indicating he supports repealing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment grants citizenship to persons born in the United States.


If it is, in fact, incentifying to make illegal behavior, in other words, [breaking] the law for the reward of having a child born in America, that's probably the wrong incentive.

–Gov. Gary Herbert


Herbert isn't taking a hard-and-fast stand yet, only saying he thinks it's worth looking at; but the governor did say he would lean toward supporting a repeal.

"As a Republican Hispanic, I'm very surprised to hear that from our own governor," said Michael Clara, with the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly.

There is surprise from the Latino community, but also from the other side -- from conservatives who feel Herbert hasn't taken a strong enough stand against illegal immigrants.

At his monthly KUED news conference Thursday, the governor said he personally would lean toward supporting 14th Amendment repeal.

"I think there's merit in looking at it to change," Herbert said. "I'm not ready to come out four-square behind it. I'd like to hear the pros and cons of the debate."

"The market needs to have the discussion, the pros and the cons," Herbert continued, "so we can come up with a resolution so the debate subsides."

14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Section 1.
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. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The 14th Amendment is one facet of the larger illegal immigration debate. For people who believe in following the letter of the law, repealing birthrights for children born to illegal immigrants is a way to halt what they call a negative incentive.

"I think that's an issue of whether that's a carrot, whether it's an incentive for people to cross the borders and have children here," Herbert said.

Those opposed to a repeal of the amendment find certain aspects of the argument dehumanizing.

"I've written him a letter and [there are] other people asking him, ‘Why do you use this metaphor that's attached to animals to people? And [they're] talking about the carrot and stuff. This comes from a mule and stuff like that," Clara says.

While the governor says he is open to a discussion on the 14th Amendment repeal, his political opponent says he is not.

"I support the U.S. Constitution, and I support the 14th Amendment, and I would not like to see that changed," says Peter Corroon, Democratic candidate for governor.

Amending the Constitution would be a major effort. For now, talk about the 14th Amendment is just one part of the larger debate over illegal immigration.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

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