Key GOP lawmaker wants bill ending birthright citizenship

A newly empowered House GOP lawmaker said he hopes to advance legislation to end the right of U.S. citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants who are born in the United States.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a staunch opponent of illegal immigration who will become chairman of a key subcommittee handling immigration rules, said that he thinks he'll be able to pass a bill out of the House to end the Constitution's birthright citizenship for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

"I think we are at least in the House," King told the conservative website Newsmax when asked if the new Congress would pass legislation to address so-called "anchor babies."

"I think it's time to put a marker down," King said, acknowledging the difficulty of passing such legislation in the Senate, and getting President Obama to sign it. "And I think we will have the votes in the House to put an end to the anchor babies in this country."

Conservatives opposed to illegal immigration have sought to change the law to deny citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants who are born in the U.S., complaining of "birthplace tourism." The conservative Republicans accuse illegal immigrants of purposefully having their children in the U.S. in order to give the newborn citizenship, and make it easier for parents and family members to legally stay in the U.S.

Birthright citizenship is a right contained within the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and was ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War. Modifying those rights would seem to require a constitutional amendment, though some in the GOP contend such a move is unnecessary.

Republican leaders including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have expressed openness to legislation addressing the law in the past, while House Speaker-to-be John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said such proposals are "worth considering."

King said he didn't believe a constitutional amendment was necessary, and that, even if the bill were stalled, it was an important priority to pursue. He'll be in a unique position to advance such legislation, when he assumes the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law in January.

"It's not a constitutional provision. It doesn't require a constitutional amendment. We can fix it by statute," he said. "And we need to put the marker down and push this thing forward. If we can't get it past the president, then at least we will have made the case for the president, and have set the stage."