It’s the first week of the 113th Congress, and one House member is already trying to stop children born in the United States to undocumented parents — whom he calls “anchor babies” — from gaining citizenship.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an outspoken hardliner on immigration, introduced a bill on Thursday that would “clarify those classes of individuals born in the United States who are nationals and citizens of the United States at birth.” The Supreme Court has consistently held that anyone born in the United States, regardless of their parents’ immigration status, should receive citizenship under the 14th Amendment.
King disagrees, as do 13 co-sponsors on the bill, including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Mo Brooks (R-Ala.).
The Constitution is clear that King’s bill is unconstitutional. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, “[a]ll 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.” The word “jurisdiction” refers to people that are subject to American law. Thus foreign diplomats and their families, who are granted broad immunity from U.S. law, are not entitled to citizenship under the 14th Amendment. Likewise, at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was drafted many Native Americans were subject only to tribal law and thus were not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States. Undocumented immigrants and their children, by contrast, are not immune to U.S. law. And thus fit squarely within the Fourteenth Amendment’s command.
In the past two years, more than 200,000 parents have been removed from the country who say they have a U.S. citizen child.