Before new members of Congress had a chance to celebrate their swearing-in ceremonies Wednesday, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, was hard at work keeping his promise to address loopholes in America's immigration laws.
On the first day of the 112th Congress, King introduced a bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, a measure that would end automatic citizenship for anyone born on American soil -- so-called "anchor babies." Instead, King's proposal would end "birthright citizenship" by mandating than only children of citizens and legal immigrants permanently living in the country or immigrants enlisted in the military be granted U.S. citizenship.
According to King, the number of babies born to undocumented immigrants runs from 340,000 to as many as 750,000 and that existing law does not discourage pregnant women without citizenship from giving birth in the United States to guarantee their newborns access to state and federal services. “Sometimes by plan, (they) have a baby here so they can cash into this great ATM called America,” King said last November.
Such "anchor babies," King says, strain the country's resources, a "substantial" burden on government services.
Many conservatives have called for changing the 14th Amendment, but King insists that ending birthright citizenship through legislative action is an easier route.
“We need to address anchor babies,” King told Politico Wednesday. “This isn’t what our founding fathers intended.”
Republicans grabbed headlines last summer after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) criticized the longstanding law, saying it encourages pregnant women to come to the country to have children so they can eventually become citizens themselves.
Though Politico predicts that immigration legislation isn't high on the House GOP's list of legislative priorities at this point, at least five members have signed on as co-sponsors for King's bill: Reps. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., Gary Miller, R-Calif., Rob Woodall, R-Ga., Brian Bilbray R-Calif., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.
In a separate effort, the New York Times reported Wednesday that Republican state lawmakers across the country plan to introduce similar legislation in at least 14 states. Though they acknowledge the bills aren't likely to have a practical effect on stemming the tide of illegal immigration in the near future as they're challenged in court, representatives from Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina said they hoped the Supreme Court would ultimately give the green light for legislative action in Washington.