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Changing 14th Amendment 'worth considering,' Boehner says

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Boehner says current law draws illegal immigrants
  • Several GOP senators support hearings
  • Reconstruction-era amendment underpins civil rights law
  • Changing the Constitution isn't an easy task

Washington (CNN) -- Changing the Constitution's guarantee of U.S. citizenship for anyone born in the United States is "worth considering" if it helps reduce illegal immigration, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives said Sunday.

"It's a serious problem that affects our country, and in certain parts of our country clearly our schools, our hospitals are being overrun by illegal immigrants. A lot of them came here just so their children could become U.S. citizens.

They should do it the legal way," House Minority Leader John Boehner told NBC's "Meet the Press."

The Ohio congressman, who could become speaker of the House if Republicans win back control of the chamber in November, is the latest GOP leader to float the idea of changing the 14th Amendment. Several leading GOP senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 2008 presidential nominee John McCain, have said they would support holding hearings into the matter as part of the heated debate over immigration.

The Reconstruction-era amendment guarantees equal protection of law and defines who is a U.S. citizen. Critics of illegal immigration have long accused migrants -- particularly those coming from Mexico or Latin American countries -- of giving birth to children in the United States in hopes that their babies' citizenship will keep them in the country.

The amendment has been cited as the foundation of U.S. civil rights law in cases ranging from Brown v. Board of Education to last week's decision that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage in California. Changing it would require a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress and the approval of three-quarters of state legislatures.

Boehner said Sunday he's "not the expert on this issue," but "I think it's worth considering."

"There is a problem," he told NBC. "To provide an incentive for illegal immigrants to come here so that their children can be U.S. citizens does, in fact, draw more people to our country."