Section 1 of the 14th Amendment states: “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.”   Originally, the 14th Amendment was intended to grant citizenship to former slaves, but its current interpretation also provides citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants – “anchor babies.”  Since its ratification in 1868 – seven years before our first federal immigration law – I simply do not believe that our lawmakers during that time period could have predicted the detrimental effects “anchor babies” now pose to our economy.

As a way to rectify this issue of birthright citizenship, some in Washington have suggested repealing the 14th Amendment in its entirety.  This would be problematic, because the 14th Amendment serves as the foundation for the Bill of Rights to be applied at the state level.  For example, just this June in the case of McDonald v. Chicago, the Supreme Court – using the 14th Amendment as its basis – ruled that firearm ownership is an individual right protected at both the federal and state levels.  

Furthermore, repealing the whole Amendment is in fact unnecessary, because Section 5 reads, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”   Congress already has a history of using this power.  In 1884, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Elk v. Wilkins that Native Americans were not U.S. citizens because they were not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, instead being members of their respective tribes.  Then, in 1924, Congress acted under its Section 5 authority to grant citizenship to all Native Americans.

Congress needs to invoke this Constitutional authority once again.  A recent Pew Hispanic Center study found that 1 out of every 12 births – 340,000 children – in the United States in 2008 was to an illegal immigrant.  At approximately $8,000 per birth, the total up-front cost of “anchor babies” shouldered by the American taxpayers is roughly $3 billion each year.  

This is precisely why we need to end the practice of “anchor babies” by passing H.R. 1868 – the Birthright Citizenship Act – authored by my former colleague, Nathan Deal.  This legislation would amend federal immigration law to require at least one parent to be a citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or an alien on active duty in the Armed Forces.  In plain words, it would change the interpretation of section 1 of the 14th Amendment to exclude “anchor babies” from birthright citizenship.

Congress has acted before on birthright citizenship, and it needs to use its authority to act again.  H.R. 1868 removes one of the most egregious incentives for illegal immigration, and we need to act swiftly on its implementation so that those who seek to cheat the system – at taxpayer expense – do not benefit as a byproduct of breaking our laws.