In recent days, Republicans have been clamoring to alter the 14th Amendment, jumping onto a movement once relegated to the fringe of their party. Pushed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a number of leading Republicans have lent their support to the idea of revoking the right to birthright citizenship. But in an op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI) called changing the amendment a “bad idea,” and warned his colleagues not to follow the path of Europe and enact xenophobic legislation:
I am the child of immigrants, a citizen by birth, and at age 39 I proudly placed my hand on the Bible and swore to protect our Constitution as a member of the U.S. Congress. My story is not unique. For more than 200 years our ancestors abandoned their homes and risked their lives to come here, work hard, and provide a better life for their families. The opportunity to do so is part of what makes our country the greatest on Earth.
I understand that our immigration system is broken and share the frustration of so many Americans with our porous borders. America needs comprehensive immigration reform; it is critical to our nation’s future. But it is simply unrealistic to believe that we can fix the problem by amending the Constitution.
Critics of birthright citizenship cite poll numbers and recent laws passed by European countries limiting citizenship. America is not Europe. Nor should we want to be. Europe has struggled for centuries with assimilating ethnic groups. By contrast, America’s unique melting pot of cultures and ethnicities has successfully assimilated new groups in far less time. This assimilation has made the whole nation stronger.
The 14th Amendment is one of the crowning achievements of the Republican Party. Following the Civil War, the 14th Amendment guaranteed due process for every person under the law and helped to reunite a fractured nation. It pains me to think that we may start tinkering with this fundamental fabric of our union.
Djou won his seat in a largely Democratic district with the help of national tea party groups, including the Tax Day Tea Party and American Liberty Alliance, but in a recent interview with ThinkProgress, Djou refused to call himself a tea party candidate.