By Sam Youngman - 08/13/10 05:16 PM EDT
Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano on Friday rejected Republican calls to amend the Constitution to prevent birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.
“Any talk of amending the Constitution is just wrong,” Napolitano said in comments at the daily White House press briefing.
Critics argue illegal immigrants come to the U.S. for the express purpose of winning citizenship for babies born in the U.S.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted Republicans for suggesting a closer examination and possible change to the equal protection amendment, noting the irony of a party dedicated to strict constructionists talking about tinkering with the Constitution.
“It's rich in its irony; it's wrong in its approach,” Gibbs said.
Napolitano also hit the GOP for not joining the Obama administration in calling for comprehensive immigration reform, which would include a pathway to citizenship for the country’s illegal immigrants.
Napolitano is the former governor of Arizona, the frontline in today’s immigration debate. The federal government successfully sued Arizona over its controversial immigration law, which would give new powers to local police to crack down on illegal immigrants.
The Homeland Security secretary said the $600 million bill President Obama signed Friday for border security is a step in the right direction, but comprehensive reform will only be possible when “Republicans finally” come to the table.
“It needs to happen,” she said.
Gibbs added: "With a little leadership, we could have comprehensive immigration reform."
While she acknowledged that the sluggish U.S. economy was partially responsible for the decrease in illegal border crossings, Napolitano said Obama's efforts have also helped to stop the flow of illegal immigration.
“These efforts are making a difference,” she said.
But Napolitano said a schedule for passing comprehensive reform is out of Obama's hands.
“This is in the hands of the Congress, and they will need to address it in a bipartisan way,” Napolitano said.