Press Release – The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
A Coalition to Preserve American Citizenship for Those Born in the U.S.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Scott Westbrook Simpson, 202.466.2061, firstname.lastname@example.org
January 5, 2011
Washington, DC –Today, civil and human rights organizations announced the formation of Americans for Constitutional Citizenship, a diverse group of civil and human rights organizations and distinguished Americans that are dedicated to preserving the integrity of our nation’s Constitution and its guarantee of citizenship for those born in the United States. This new coalition has come together to oppose – in the strongest possible terms – any legislation at the state or federal level that would seek to undermine the citizenship guarantee of the U.S. Constitution.
Earlier in the day, a group of state legislators proposed state-level legislation to subvert the longstanding guarantees of the 14th amendment by denying standard birth certificates to the children of undocumented immigrants. In announcing the coalition, Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that “for the first time since the end of the Civil War, these legislators want to pass state laws that would create two tiers of citizens — a modern-day caste system — with potentially of millions of natural-born Americans being treated as somehow less than entitled to the equal protection of the laws that our nation has struggled so hard to guarantee.”
The diverse coalition’s membership includes The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, ACLU, NAACP, Center for American Progress, Asian American Justice Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, the Opportunity Agenda, National Council of La Raza, LULAC, National Immigration Forum, NALEO, American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, MALDEF, and more.
The new coalition asserts that 14th Amendment is the cornerstone of American civil rights and the foundation of American identity.
Leaders of the coalition issued the following statements:
“The plain and unequivocal language of the 14th Amendment was meant to forever settle the question of what makes somebody a U.S. citizen and a citizen of each state, and it made clear that states can never again seek to create an underclass of Americans living among us.” –Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
“What the intolerant legislators proposed this morning is an intolerable and unwarranted assault on our Constitution, on our founding values, and on our very existence as a united nation. Their theory, apparently developed after much supposed research, would call into question the citizenship of generations of Americans, including historical leaders, and would impede the free interstate mobility that has become ubiquitous in the twenty-first century United States.” – Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
“The 14th Amendment made it very clear that indeed African Americans were full citizens of the United States. But the 14th Amendment should not be left with the Dred Scott decision and the Reconstruction era – or even the Jim Crow era – as it has been held to apply to Japanese Americans during WWII and Chinese American immigrants and others. As such, it is deeply concerning to us that those who have such a narrow partisan agenda are focusing in on very recklessly opening the 14th Amendment – established law in our country – to bring a new form of discrimination in our society that clearly contradicts our Constitution.” – Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau
“The 14th Amendment and its guarantee of citizenship to all children born in the United States has played a critical role in the special character of this country. Many Americans have fought, sacrificed and died to deliver on the promise of the 14th Amendment. To try to alter this amendment flies in the face of the landmark 1898 case U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark and the Constitution. This debate is about our values as Americans and the wisdom of undermining a principle that is at the very heart of our Constitution.”- Karen Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center
“The attempt to redefine what citizenship means in this country is an affront to our founding fathers’ vision for the United States of America. I urge my fellow legislators in Arizona and around the country to reject these measures and hold true to the principles of freedom and democracy created by our founding fathers.” – Arizona State Senator Kyrsten Sinema
“The Fourteenth Amendment is one of America’s greatest civil rights achievements. By setting a clear, objective constitutional basis for citizenship placed this vital issue beyond the reach politicians and judges. The Supreme Court has made clear for more than a century that the constitutional citizenship clause makes all who are born here and subject to our law citizens of our country. Any political attempt to tinker with that principle is unconstitutional.”- Walter Dellinger, former Assistant Attorney General and head of the Office of Legal Counsel
“The Constitution guarantees American citizenship to every person born in the United States as an essential principle of equality – in America, our citizenship does not depend on who our parents are. We must reject any attempt to erode the fundamental values of fairness and equality enshrined in the 14th Amendment.” – Lucas Guttentag, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project