ACLU Of Georgia Urges Lawmakers To Reject Discriminatory Bill Proposed By State Senator Jack Murphy To Subvert 14th Amendment

ACLU Of Georgia Urges Lawmakers To Reject Discriminatory Bill Proposed By State Senator Jack Murphy To Subvert 14th Amendment

Georgia Should Not Deny Standard Birth Certificates
To Some Americans, Says ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 5, 2011

Atlanta – The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia called on state lawmakers to reject a bill proposed today by State Senator Jack Murphy that is intended to deny Americans the fundamental protections of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU made the call after a group of state legislators, including Georgia State Senator Jack Murphy, announced that they will introduce bills in their state legislatures that would do just that by requiring states to deny standard birth certificates to many U.S. citizen babies born in the U.S. to immigrant parents. The proposed legislation would also require all people in the U.S., whether citizens or not, to prove their status before they can receive a standard birth certificate for their baby. Currently, there is no such requirement. The bill, which Sen. Murphy says he will introduce in this upcoming legislative session, directly contradicts the long-standing 14th Amendment guarantee that all people born in the U.S. and under its jurisdiction are citizens of the U.S. and the state in which they reside and are equal under the law.

Senator Murphy joined lawmakers from several other states who are proposing similar legislation in their states at a press conference today. If enacted, the bills are unlikely to survive legal scrutiny since the Constitution can only be changed by amendment, not by state or federal statute.

“The legislators of Georgia should not be trying to subvert the Constitution by creating two classes of American citizenship. Citizenship should never be subject to the political and discriminatory whims of the day,” said Debbie Seagraves, ACLU of Georgia Executive Director. “The 14th Amendment’s guarantee was a response to the pervasive discrimination of the 19th century. The fact that legislators are still trying to create an underclass of American citizens shows that the 14th Amendment is clearly as relevant and vital today as it was a hundred years ago.”

Adopted in the aftermath of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment negated one of the Supreme Court’s most infamous rulings, the Dred Scott decision of 1857, which held that neither freed slaves nor their descendants could ever become citizens. The Amendment, which conferred the rights of citizenship on all who were born in this country, including freed slaves, was enacted in response to laws passed by the former Confederate states that prevented African Americans from entering professions, owning or leasing land, accessing public accommodations, serving on juries and voting.

“The legislation proposed by State Senator Murphy is unconstitutional,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director. “Equality under the law for every person born in the United States does not depend on who your parents are or where they came from. Enacting this legislation would undermine the values of fairness and equality that the people of Georgia hold dear. Georgia lawmakers should stand up for the Constitution and reject this bill outright.”

In 1898, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the guarantee of the 14th Amendment and affirmed the fundamental principle that children born on American soil are U.S. citizens without regard to their parents’ status. In United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the Court held that a baby born in San Francisco to Chinese parents who were subjects of China and were prohibited by law from becoming U.S. citizens was a citizen at birth under the 14th Amendment. This principle has been the settled law of the land for more than a century.

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