Friday, March 1, 2024

Guest Blogger Series: Congressman José E. Serrano “Never Amend the Constitution to Take Away Rights”

By Rep. José E. Serrano

As an election nears, we always hear increasingly extreme rhetoric from the Republican Party on immigration.  But this time around, their fire has turned on the most vulnerable among us; the children. This shameful tactic, which is designed to fire up their most angry anti-immigrant supporters, is not even focused on immigrant children, but rather the American citizen children of immigrants.  It is wrong, and it must end.

The right wing and their supporters claim that it is time to “relook” at the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which says that if you are born in the United States, regardless of your parents’ status, you are a “natural born citizen”.  It was passed in the wake of the Civil War to guarantee the citizenship of slaves and their children.  Tampering with this great cornerstone of our society is unthinkable.  The Constitution should be amended only to add rights, not to take them away.

For more than 160 years, we have held firm to the idea that the child does not bear blame for the transgressions of the parents.  In fact, we go further than that and believe that all children in our nation start with a clean slate and the right to be whatever they would like to be.  This was a revolutionary idea in its day, and remains part of our unique American value system.  To begin to say, “well, if your parents were here without papers, perhaps you are not as much a citizen” is a shocking move for a country built on equality.

In 2006, I introduced a bill that went in the direction of supporting child citizens—and ensuring further that the problems of their parents do not overly effect their chances at a good life here in America.  The inspiration for H.R. 182, The Child Citizen Protection Act, came when I was alerted to the fact that immigration judges were not allowed to consider the effects of a deportation on the child citizens whose families were being broken apart.  This struck me as the wrong way to treat children.  I wrote a bill which, if it were to become law, would restore partial discretion to immigration judges in cases where removal of an immigrant is clearly against the best interest of a child that is a United States citizen.

There is a stark divide between the right thing to do – pass a comprehensive immigration reform including parts like my Child Citizen Protection Act – and the action that the right wing is demanding – deporting everyone and perhaps stripping children of their citizenship.  Using this anti-immigrant rhetoric and seeking a repeal of the 14th Amendment is at odds with the Republican Party’s historic stance; after all it was their party that passed the 14th Amendment in the first place.

The anti-immigrant fever that has gripped some in this nation must be dealt with.  We cannot allow our country to slip further along towards a place where specific ethnic groups are made to feel unwelcome.  We are a nation of immigrants, and a nation that has always supported the rights of children. Seeking to strip some children of their citizenship is not just wrong, it’s un-American.

U.S. Representative José E. Serrano represents the Sixteenth Congressional District of New York in the Bronx. Congressman Serrano serves on the House Appropriations Committee and is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government . Serrano is also Senior Whip for the Majority Whip operation.  He is an active member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and served as Chair of the Caucus from 1993-94.  He is now the most senior Member of Congress of Puerto Rican descent.

Serrano is originally from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.  From 1964-66, Serrano served in the 172nd Support Battalion of the U.S. Army Medical Corps. After an honorable discharge from the Army, he returned to the Bronx and worked in a bank and as a school administrator before his election to the New York State Assembly in 1974.  First elected to Congress in 1990, Congressman Serrano has been reelected ever since.  By the end of his current term, he will be the longest-serving public official in Bronx history.

The Congressman is an advocate for a more humane immigration policy and has fought for the protection of civil liberties in the wake of the Patriot Act.  José Serrano has developed a strong reputation for standing up for social and environmental justice.


  1. I agree with the Congressman that the Constitution should never be amended to take away anyone’s rights…especially those of the most defenseless.

  2. People make it a business to come have babies here. I do not believe lawmakers ever intended that to happen when the 14th amendment was drawn up and I’m sure they would have something to say against it!

    • Make it their business, “people” women are not in the business of having babies, they are afforded that privilage because of people like you “men”…Having babies is an honor and a blessing not a business. Jacob, you don’t sound like a natural born citizen but a natural born fool.

      • Where the equivalent of facebook’s “like” button on this page for Jerry’s comment? 😉

  3. Republicans are foolish in their endeavor of trying to amend the amendment their own party pushed through more than 100 years ago! Everyone knows its all for political gain anyways with upcoming midterm elections, but what COWARDS to go and pick on the most innocent in our society, babies! They have fallen to a new low…

  4. “The Constitution should be amended only to add rights, not to take them away.” I could not agree more wholeheartedly – I’m confident the Founding Fathers would too.

  5. Isaura Santiago says

    Thanks Joe, Once again, you speak eloquently for the rights of the most vulnerable! …too often women and children. Perhaps because the battles often seem so incessant, we don’t take the opportunity to say “thanks”. Amongst the many “unpopular” battles you have taken on that I and other Presidents witnessed was your support for the women of Hostos Community College. Not only your eloquent support of our language and culture at the national and local levels….but the right of women on welfare to go to college. (Contrary to Guliani’s view that they were not “worthy.”) Cosponsoring the Dream Act is another act of courage in your support of immigrants –putting chains on college doors by denying financial aid to the undocumented is another tactic to deny our community a future–or any hope of one… Stay strong! God Bless