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NAACP Opposes Attacks by State Legislators as Well as Members of the United States Congress on the Rights of Citizenship as Guaranteed by the 141h Amendment to the United States Constitution

WHEREAS, the 141 1/h amendment to the U.S. Constitution was originally adopted in 1868, after the Civil War to clarify the legal citizenship status of former slaves and others, as one of the "Reconstruction Amendments"; and

WHEREAS, the "Reconstruction Amendments" to the U.S. Constitution are the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments; and was adopted between 1865 and 1870, the five years immediately following the Civil War. The Amendments were important elements in implementing the Reconstruction of the American South after the war. Their proponents saw them as transforming the United States from a country that was (in the words of Abraham Lincoln) "half slave and half free" to one in which the constitutionally guaranteed "blessings of liberty" would be extended to the entire male populace, including the former slaves and their descendants. The Thirteenth Amendment (both proposed and ratified in 1865) abolished slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment (proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868) included the Citizenship, Privileges or Immunities, Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. The Fifteenth Amendment,  (proposed in 1869 and ratified in 1870 under the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant) grants voting rights regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude"; and

WHEREAS, the "Citizenship Clause" of the 141 1/h Amendment was intended to overrule the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision of 1857 which said that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves (or their descendants, whether or not they were slaves) were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S. citizens, and it was also in response to the "Black Codes" enacted by southern states after the Civil War which were laws used to control the labor, migration and other activities of newly-freed slaves and effectively placed severe limitations on the basic human rights and civil liberties of African Americans; and

WHEREAS, the original intent of the 141 1/h Amendment was to ensure citizenship to newly emancipated slaves. In doing so, the authors of the 141 Amendment established and solidified, once and for all, the concept of birthright American citizenship to "all persons" born in the United States, even those of former servitude; and

WHEREAS, before the 14th Amendment was enacted, most African Americans were not considered full citizens of the United States, as they were consistently refused the full privileges, rights and immunities of citizenship; and

WHEREAS, the 14th Amendment states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside"; and

WHEREAS, constitutional citizenship as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment was intended to put citizenship above the preferences and prejudices of any politician or era, and to ensure that all those born on United States soil are treated equally with full rights of citizenship; and

WHEREAS, in the more than 140 years since its adoption, the boundaries of the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution have been tested in several legal cases; and

WHEREAS, in the late nineteenth century, the questions surrounded the children of Chinese laborers brought to this country primarily to help build the railroads. In one such case, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, in 1898, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Ark had, under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution acquired U.S. citizenship at birth; and

WHEREAS, currently there are attacks on the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment by right-wing extremist state and federal legislators who are opposed to extending citizenship rights and protections of children born in the United States whose parents are not American citizens; and

WHEREAS, the principle of birthright citizenship for every individual born in the U.S., however, has been consistently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, and legislator's attempting to corrode these crucial rights as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment have proven to be a losing legal argument and waste of taxpayer dollars; and

WHEREAS, it is clear that abolishing one of America's founding principles is neither a correct nor just route; and

WHEREAS, altering the 14th Amendment is a dangerous concept and could well lead to a caste system where some are granted all the rights of a citizen and some are not; and

WHEREAS, changes to the Citizenship Clause of the Constitution could divide the American people into at least two separate classes, would defy over a century of Supreme Court decisions, and would be contrary to the democratic principles we have fought so hard to earn and protect.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP strongly, vociferously and consistently oppose efforts at the local, state or federal level to change or amend any portion of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, including the Citizenship Clause