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There is a growing cadre of conservative Republicans who claim to revere the U.S. Constitution but nevertheless want to repeal or rewrite that document's 14th Amendment. Unfortunately, Gov. Gary Herbert has joined the group.

Several Utah legislators, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Lee and now Herbert are supporting revisions that would abolish the guarantee that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

These not-so-strict constructionists are reacting to the widespread anti-immigrant fervor on the right of their party that has reached fever pitch in an election year with high unemployment and economic uncertainty. Illegal immigrants are the target of their ire, but the problem is due to the failure of both Republican and Democratic Congresses to reform federal immigration laws.

Their claim that millions of illegal immigrants conspire to enter the United States and immediately produce children who are automatically citizens and can act as "anchors" to keep the whole family here is ludicrous. Undocumented parents of children born in America are often deported. Having citizen children is no guarantee that federal immigration officers will overlook the status of the parents.

Only a citizen son or daughter who has reached adulthood can help a parent gain citizenship. Having a baby provides no legal avenue for the parents to become legal residents. A new report from the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center says that more than half the children of undocumented immigrants were born at least three years after their parents arrived here.

Those who want to eliminate birth citizenship are irked that U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants can receive tax-funded health benefits and education. But do we really want more children who are unhealthy and uneducated? Or to deport them all?

The 14th Amendment has served this nation of immigrants well for 150 years. Calls to repeal it are, as the governor surely knows, unrealistic. To do so requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states.

Congress has the power to reform immigration without tampering with the Constitution in a way that would render tens of thousands of innocent children stateless. We assume that the governor knows this, too, and suggest that he not keep it to himself while he's out campaigning.