Sharron Angle said Monday Congress should take a closer look at the 14th Amendment, which grants automatic American citizenship to babies born in the U.S.
In suggesting a review, the U.S. Senate candidate joins several leading Republicans who are pushing to reconsider the constitutional amendment to deal with a growing illegal immigration problem. Those Republicans include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. Lindsey Graham, Jeff Sessions, and John McCain.
Graham said he may propose an amendment to change the Constitution as the number of U.S. citizens born to illegal immigrants grew to 4 million in 2008, says the Pew Hispanic Center. Critics call them "anchor babies" because the children give parents a foothold for possibly gaining legal status and U.S. citizenship themselves one day.
Angle chose her words carefully when asked whether she, too, has a concern about the 14th Amendment's use by illegal immigrants to win citizenship for their babies.
"I think perhaps the Congress needs to now become involved," Angle told reporters at her Las Vegas campaign headquarters.
Angle didn't call for a repeal of the amendment, but she said a constitutional expert she consulted, John Eastman, raised questions about how it has been interpreted.
The 14th Amendment says those born in the U.S. are under the jurisdiction of its laws, Angle noted.
"Certainly someone who has not come here observant to the rule of law is not under our jurisdiction and so that, I think, needs to have definition as to exactly what that entails," Angle said. "We've been relying upon the Supreme Court to make those definitions."
The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868 after the Civil War to initially grant citizenship to former slaves. It says "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisidiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic incumbent Angle is trying to defeat, recently said the amendment's drafters “purposely chose an objective standard of citizenship – birth – that was not subject to politics. Reconstruction leaders established a firm, sound principle: To be an American citizen, you don't have to please a majority, you just have to be born here."
Republicans looking to change the amendment are “either taking leave of their senses or their principles," Reid said, according to an Associated Press story last week.
Illegal immigration became a hot-button issue after Arizona passed a law that would allow police to check the legal status of people they stop for other reasons.
Angle argues Arizona is using its 10th Amendment, or state's rights, to protect its borders after a failure of the U.S. government to enforce the laws against illegal immigration.
Reid, on the other hand, has called for broad immigration reform focused first on securing the border. But he has failed to move ahead on the issue, which appeals to Hispanic voters that he'll need to win re-election. Two years ago, activists boosted Hispanic involvement in the election to 15 percent of the Nevada electorate, a record high.