Birthright hearings would be deja vu

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The recent call by Senate Republicans to hold hearings on revising the 14th Amendment seemed to introduce a new wrinkle in the polarizing debate over illegal immigration.

Or did it?

In the mid-1990s, House Judiciary Committee panels held two separate hearings on birthright citizenship, the policy protected under the 14th Amendment that automatically grants citizenship to people born in the United States.

What's striking is that the hearings on GOP-sponsored bills and resolutions then featured many of the same arguments as now, when some Republicans are calling for denying citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

Not only that, but some of the very same lawmakers now engaged in the heart of the debate were active back then as well, whether Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) arguing in favor of a change or Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) arguing against. In the end, the effort went nowhere — and the hearings give a clue as to why, because of the knotty constitutional and legal questions posed by overhauling the Reconstruction-era amendment....

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