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Birthright citizenship—a cornerstone of the 14th Amendment that grants citizenship to everyone born on American soil—is again being challenged in Congress. On January 3, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced H.R.140, the “Birthright Citizenship Act of 2013.”

Rather than amending the Constitution, the bill seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to “requires that only the children of citizens, legal immigrants permanently living in the country or immigrants in the military, be granted citizenship.”

The bill picked up thirteen co-sponsors the first day it was introduced: Lou Barletta (R-Pennsylvania), Diane Black (R-Tennessee), Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), John Culberson (R-Texas), Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina), Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Walter Jones (R-North Carolina), Jeff Miller (R-Florida), Richard Nugent (R-Florida), Lynn Westmoreland (R-Georgia), and Rob Woodall (R-Georgia).

King introduced a similar measure targeting birthright citizenship in the 112th Congress elected in November 2010. The Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011, H.R. 140, picked up 90 co-sponsors but did not get out of committee. On the Senate side, Sen. Vitter (R-Louisiana) introduced a similar measure for the first time: S.723, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011. The bill picked up several Tea Party co-sponsors in the Senate: John Boozeman (R-Arkansas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). It did not move in the Senate in the 112th Congress, either. 

This year the idea of denying citizenship to some of those born in the USA did get the support of influential Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina)—one of the key negotiators in the current round of immigration reform discussions.

In 2007 and 2009, similar bills were introduced into the House of Representatives by then-Congressman, now Georgia governor, Nathan Deal. The Birthright Citizenship act of 2009 landed 95 co-sponsors in the 111th Congress. When asked in 2010 if he was open to doing away with birthright citizenship, then House Minority Leader John Boehner said, “I think it’s worth considering.” At the height of recent nativist organizing, the 2007 version in the 110th Congress garnered 104 co-sponsors.

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1. 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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In a statement, King argued that his new bill was necessary because, “"The current practice of extending U.S. citizenship to hundreds of thousands of ‘anchor babies’ must end because it creates a magnet for illegal immigration into our country.” Aside from the offensive and derogatory use of a term like “anchor babies,” there is little evidence to support the supposedly magnetic effect on undocumented immigration.  [Please pardon IREHR repetition of King’s derogatory language about natural born Americans-ed.]

Not surprisingly, anti-immigrant and Tea Party groups have started to line up support behind King’s bill.

On January 8, NumbersUSA, one of the central addresses for anti-immigrant advocacy, announced the bill almost immediately on a section of their website entitled “End Birthright Citizenship.”

National Tea Party faction, the Patriot Action Network, the most grassroots-based and largest of the national Tea Party factions, started a lengthy discussion called “Stop Anchor Babies,” that is supporting King’s bill on their website. 

One Patriot Action Network member from Illinois wrote on January 8, “I applaud Steve King. 100 of thousands of Anchor babies for 20 years or more.  Probably more than 100’s of thousands.  Our neighborhoods and schools in Illinois make white people a minority, Illinois being a sanctuary state.  I work with these people and love them but they have come from corrupt govt and many, not all, have brought their corrupt behavior with them.

As a matter of actual fact, the State of Illinois is still 78% white (63.3% white, non-Hispanic), according to 2011 census data.  And given that four Illinois governors in the past 50 years have been sentenced to prison for one crime or another, this Tea Partier’s worries about imported corruption seem a bit more mythical than factual.

Facts are not the strong suit of those try to gut the Fourteenth Amendment, but bigotry is.

Consider Rep. King in this regard: He has introduced English-Only legislation, flirted with birther rhetoric, attacked multiculturalism, and argued that racial profiling is an important component of law enforcement.  He has shared the stage with white nationalists, openly longed for the days when only property owners could vote, floated secession as a possible response to health care reform, called the settlement of a discrimination suit brought by black farmers “reparations,” and worried that marriage equality would turn Iowa into a “gay Mecca.”  And he was the lone dissenting vote against a House vote to acknowledge the role that slave labor had in constructing the U.S. Capitol.

Representative King’s words and his actions speak for themselves.  Do not let them speak for you.  Sign the petition and push back against those who would use anti-immigrant bigotry to unravel the Fourteenth Amendment and its intertwined provisions for birthright citizenship and equality before the law. Sign the Petition Now.

Devin Burghart

Author Devin Burghart

is vice president of IREHR. He coordinates our Seattle office, directs our research efforts, and manages our online communications. He has researched, written, and organized on virtually all facets of contemporary white nationalism since 1992, and is internationally recognized for this effort. Devin is frequently quoted as an expert by print, broadcast, and online media outlets. In 2007, he was awarded a Petra Foundation fellowship. more...

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