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Celebrate and Defend the Fourteenth Amendment

WHEREAS, Americans of African descent contributed mightily to the economic, cultural and social life of the country that became the United States from their first moments on the North American continent, without the rights of citizenship for hundreds of those years; and

WHEREAS, the 1857 Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford regarded all Americans of African descent - free or slaves - as non-citizens without either the natural rights of human beings or the political rights of citizens; and

WHEREAS, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was adopted in July 1868, and superseded the Dred Scott decision and promised equal rights before the law and citizenship to all born or naturalized here; and

WHEREAS, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, in a 1987 speech on the occasion of the bicentennial of the Constitution, noted the effect of the Fourteenth Amendment and said: "While the Union survived the civil war, the Constitution did not. In its place arose a new, more promising basis for justice and equality, the 141 Amendment, ensuring protection of the life, liberty, and property of all persons against deprivations without due process, and guaranteeing equal protection of the laws"; and

WHEREAS, Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment reads: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws; and

WHEREAS, the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction" excluded only children of foreign diplomats and Native Americans living on reservations at the time the amendment was written, and included all the children of immigrants; and

WHEREAS, the phrase "all persons born" immediately conferred citizenship to Freedmen and women, the children of slaves and all those born in the United States, whether or not their parents held proper citizenship documents; and

WHEREAS, the 1898 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Wong Kim Ark held that the guarantee of citizenship applies to children of foreigners that are born in the United States, even if their parents are not American citizens and are not eligible to become U.S. citizens; and

WHEREAS, the Fourteenth Amendment was, and remains, a guarantee of the voting rights promised in the Fifteenth Amendment. And the Supreme Court in 1966 in Katzenbach v. Morgan invoked the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in defense of the Voting Rights Act; and

WHEREAS, as soon as the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, a long campaign - sometimes violent, sometimes in the courts and legislatures and sometimes intellectual and political - began attempting to nullify the provisions, rendering them mute and ineffective, destroying the foundations of a democratic society; and

WHEREAS, the Civil Rights Act of 1875 banned racial discrimination in public accommodations and transportation and was based on the Fourteenth Amendment's protections; and

WHEREAS, in 1883 the Supreme Court invalidated the Civil Rights Act of 1875, claiming that the Fourteenth Amendment held sway over the actions of state governments, but not over individuals or local jurisprudence, thus severely restricting the reach of the Fourteenth Amendment; and

WHEREAS, the so-called Black Code laws that began as the gains of Reconstruction were taken away. Jim Crow segregation, lynch-mob law and the second class citizenship became the de facto law of the land, all of which opposed both the letter and intent of the Fourteenth Amendment; and

WHEREAS, the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 was based on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and ruled that the Black Code laws and Jim Crow segregation were unconstitutional; and

WHEREAS, the 1958 resolution of the Lee-Jackson Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans was typical of nee-Confederate and white supremacist arguments at that time and now, in that it argued that "the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in such a defective manner as to make said ratification ineffective and that said amendment is no part of the Constitution"; and

WHEREAS, the militia movement, the Posse Comitatus, sovereigns and organizations such as the Montana Freemen and many others starting in the 1980's and continuing into today contend that those they deemed "white Christians" had rights based on the Preamble to the Constitution that were superior to the rights of those they called "Fourteenth Amendment citizens." An elaborate legal and theological rationale was constructed by this new white supremacist movement. All of it was aimed at undermining the letter, spirit and authority of the Fourteenth Amendment; and

WHEREAS, the Republican Party, in its 1996 convention platform, adopted a plank aimed squarely at nullifying the letter and spirit of the Fourteenth Amendment that read, in part: "We support a constitutional amendment or constitutionally-valid legislation declaring that children born in the United States of parents who are not legally present in the United States or who are not longĀ­ term residents are not automatically citizens"; and

WHEREAS, members of the House of Representatives, in multiple congresses, have sponsored legislation aimed at ending birthrights citizenship, in opposition to both the letter and spirit of the Fourteenth Amendment, adding to a growing sentiment in some circles that the Fourteenth Amendment should be disregarded.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP celebrates, commemorates and defends the Fourteenth amendment, including all of its provisions for birthright citizenship and equality before the law.