Yesterday, state lawmakers from a handful of states stood up at the National Press Club and declared their intention to change the interpretation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution so that children born in the United States would no longer be automatically granted citizenship.
It’s the culmination of the last year’s talk of “anchor babies,” “terror babies” and strict immigration laws. Now, conservative legislators from at least five states say they have the answer to illegal immigration: Impose state laws declaring that the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to the children of illegal immigrants.
Lead by Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R), the group says it is writing model legislation for states. The group fully expects any laws that pass to be immediately challenged on constitutional grounds — and wants the issue to go to the Supreme Court.
According to the lawmakers, who come from Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia and Oklahoma, the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to any child born on U.S. soil. It applies only to those whose parents have pledged allegiance to the U.S. government.
“I’ve long considered birthright citizenship to be the holy grail of the illegal immigration debate,” Oklahoma state Rep. Randy Terrill (R) — who is currently facing bribery charges — said in a statement. “It has created a perverse incentive for foreign nationals to break U.S. law and proven to be a policy disaster for our Republic.”
The group, which says their legislation will be introduced in 14 states, also includes Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), authors of Arizona’s own controversial (and already constitutionally challenged) immigration law.
The group believes that “hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens are crossing U.S. borders to give birth and exploit their child as an ‘anchor baby,’ as a means to obtain residency, access taxpayer-funded benefits and steal American jobs for themselves and for their families.”
They have plenty of support in the Congress, too. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) plans to introduce legislation that would end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said on Fox this week that he’d support legislation that required at least one parent to be a legal resident of the U.S. in order for the child to be a citizen. Smith, chairman of the Judiciary Committee (which oversees immigration law), added that it would not be his committee’s first order of business; instead, he plans to focus on job creation.
The 14th Amendment reads, “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.”
Writing legislation to re-interpret the amendment is a way around the extremely difficult process of actually amending the Constitution itself, although some members of Congress, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have said they’d consider trying.