Political momentum grows for revoking birthright citizenship

Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, voiced support Sunday for hearings on whether to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

Another Republican senator, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called on all Americans to carry a biometric identification card to prove to employers they are eligible to work legally.

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Taken together, the lawmakers’ statements signal that the GOP is striking a tougher rhetorical posture on illegal immigration before the November elections.

Kyl (Ariz.), the Senate Republican whip, cited the costs illegal immigrants pose to state governments, which must pay for their education and medical care.

“The question is, if both parents are here illegally, should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?” Kyl said during an interview CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“My colleague Lindsey Graham from South Carolina suggested that we pursue that,” Kyl said. “And what I suggested to him was that we should hold some hearings and hear first from the constitutional experts to at least tell us what the state of the law on that proposition is.”

The 14th amendment, which Congress passed in 1866, grants citizenship to all persons born in the United States.

Graham said last week that he may introduce a constitutional amendment that would deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States.

Graham’s proposal has gained political momentum among Senate Republicans, even while some members of the GOP have blasted the proposal.

Michael Gerson, a former policy adviser and speechwriter for President George W. Bush, accused Graham of giving up on his principals.

“After years of being a lonely voice of Republican sanity on immigration, Graham has decided to embrace the supreme symbol of nativism — changing the Fourteenth Amendment to restrict American citizenship,” Gerson wrote in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post. “He has either taken leave of his senses or of his principles.”

Both Kyl and Graham on Sunday called for federal action on illegal immigration after a federal court struck down an Arizona law that required suspected illegal immigrants to furnish proof of citizenship during police stops.

Federal district court judge Susan Bolton issued an injunction last week against the law, finding that it interfered with the federal government’s authority to police immigration.

“The Arizona law has hit a legal wall now,” Graham said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It's going to be very difficult, I think, to sustain this law on appeal now that the judge has ruled the way she's done.”

Graham said every American should carry a biometic ID card with a finger print that must be presented to employers.

“You would have a document that's trustworthy and verifiable,” he said. “I can get you a fake Social Security by midnight.”

Kyl said Congress should reaffirm its intent for the federal government to enforce immigration laws against people who come into the country illegally.

He said comprehensive immigration reform would not pass through Congress “until the American people believe that the federal government really intends to enforce the laws against people being here illegally.”