A couple weeks ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) propelled what was formerly a right-wing peripheral movement to change the 14th amendment to prevent the American-born children of undocumented immigrants from automatically receiving citizenship upon birth and moved it into the mainstream. However, despite the fact that Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Mitch McConnell (R-KT) have backed Graham up, there are also a handful of Republicans for whom the GOP attack on the 14th amendment simply goes too far:
Michael Gerson — Former George W. Bush Speechwriter: “That is the wisdom of the authors of the 14th Amendment: They essentially wanted to take this very difficult issue — citizenship — outside of the political realm. They wanted to take an objective standard, birth, instead of a subjective standard, which is the majorities at the time. I think that’s a much better way to deal with an issue like this.”
Mark McKinnon — Republican political advisor to former President George W. Bush: “The 14th Amendment is a great legacy of the Republican party. It is a shame and an embarrassment that the GOP now wants to amend it for starkly political reasons … Initially Republicans rallied around the amendment to welcome more citizens to this country. Now it is being used to drive people away.”
Cesar Conda — Former assistant for domestic policy to Vice President Dick Cheney: “Innocent children shouldn’t be held responsible for the sins of their parents. [...] Senator Graham’s plan to end birthright citizenship is not only substantively and politically flawed, but it undermines a bedrock principle of modern conservatism — preserving the sanctity of life. Republicans and conservatives ought to think long and hard before embracing such a controversial proposal.”
Lou Dobbs –Former CNN anchor and conservative pundit: “I have absolutely maintained for years that the anchor baby issue is one of law. We have a law in which they become U.S. citizens for being born here. If you are going to insist on the rule of law and order — and I do — I have to insist that we recognize those anchor babies as citizens of this country.”
Mark Krikorian — Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies: “I don’t like illegals having U.S.-citizen kids any more than anyone else, but there’s no evidence suggesting that this “drop and leave” stuff is true. [...] I hope I don’t get in trouble with my friends for this, and there are indeed people I respect who disagree with me, but there’s a sense in which, just as anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools, an inordinate focus on birthright citizenship is the restrictionism of fools — and Lindsey Graham is strong evidence for that claim.”
Zach Howell — National Chairman, College Republican National Committee: “The elimination of the 14th Amendment is not worth considering. This proposal adds fuel to an already overheated debate in which reasoned arguments have taken a back seat to paranoid demagoguery. The idea that people are making a mad dash across the border in order to “drop a child” as Sen. Lindsey Graham put it is mean-spirited and clearly not true.”
The split amongst conservatives is even present organizationally. Former Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) and current Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation maintains, “[w]ith the major problems and expenses we experience due to illegal immigration, it’s [birthright citizenship] a legitimate and necessary debate.” However, his colleague at the Heritage Foundation, James Carafano, disagrees, telling Politico “Why are we debating this now? I don’t see this discussion as part of a rational discourse about how to fix broken borders and a deeply flawed immigration system.” In fact, it does nothing.