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Ex-AG Gonzales: 'Don't tinker' with 14th Amendment

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Ex-AG Gonzales: 'Don't tinker' with 14th Amendment

  • Pres. George W. Bush announces his nomination of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to succeed John Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General, 2004.
    White House photoPres. George W. Bush announces his nomination of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to succeed John Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General, 2004.

Alberto Gonzales isn't joining his Republican colleagues in calling for a review of the 14th Amendment's birthright citizenship provision.

In an interview with KRLD NewsRadio in Dallas, the former U.S. Attorney General and Texas Supreme Court justice told host Scott Braddock that it would not be wise to "tinker" with birthright citizenship — and that a repeal of the amendment would not "be effective in addressing the immigration crisis."

"I don't think you go tinkering with the Constitution except under extraordinary circumstances to deal with problems that cannot be fixed with legislation or regulation," he said, adding, "Even if we were to amend the 14th amendment, it's not going to solve our immigration crisis, quite frankly. We need to have a comprehensive immigration bill that focuses on border security, workplace enforcement, and policies that are going to complement our economic policies and promote commerce."

His position makes him a stand-out among the Texas GOP. U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison have said they support a "review" of birthright citizenship. Fifteen of Texas' 20 Republican congressmen have signed on to the Birthright Citizenship Act, a bill introduced by Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., that would restrict citizenship to children born to at least one parent who's in the U.S. legally. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, has been outspoken on the issue since 2002. On the state level, Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, has in each of the past two sessions proposed legislation that would effectively do away with it — and vows to do it again in 2011.

The Tribune explored the issue of birthright citizenship this week, examining the practical effects of taking it away. Immigration attorney Margaret Stock explains: "The debate is always about the theoretical. … Whenever you talk about the practical aspects of it, there's silence. Because anybody who understands how citizenship is determined in the absence of the 14th Amendment quickly realizes that we have a huge mess on our hands. And it will cost billions of dollars if we change the amendment's current interpretation."

Morgan Smith was an editorial intern and columnist at Slate, in Washington D.C., before moving to Austin to enter law school at the University of Texas in 2008. (She has put her degree on hold to join the Tribune’s staff.) A native of San Antonio, she has a B.A. in English from Wellesley College.

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