Let's get real and end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants
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Every 93 seconds a beautiful baby ‎is born in the United States . . . to illegal immigrant parents.  Due to the current misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment, that child is immediately deemed a U.S. citizen--and given all the related financial, legal, and social benefits, which includes opportunities for those illegal immigrant parents to cash in on many of the benefits.

We simply cannot continue to ignore this.  400,000 cases every year isn't a trivial distraction. It's a real part of our illegal immigration problem.


We must face the fact that the current policy of birthright citizenship is a huge magnet for more illegal crossings into our country. And unfortunately, that's often at the hands of very dangerous people.

This magnet attracts women from Mexico and Central America to make the dangerous trek north, often in the hands of “coyotes” or human smugglers and drug cartels. These women frequently put their lives into the hands of criminal gangs, some who make a living on human trafficking.

Then there's the growing birth tourism industry. Many foreign women, notably from China, pay huge amounts of money in order to travel to the United States and be housed, often in shady accommodations, while pregnant with the intent of birthing a child during their stay.

Earlier this year, federal agents were able to put a stop to a specific so-called birth tourism “ring” in southern California, and found several pregnant women with fraudulent visas. Some of them had paid up to $80,000 to have their babies born on U.S. soil.

Does this policy make any sense for us? Isn't there a reason we're one of only two advanced countries in the world that allow this?

Washington elites can't offer any compelling arguments. So instead, they push the notion that this is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, specifically the Fourteenth Amendment. Well, that's wrong too.  

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.”

The phrase “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” clearly means something. It's clearly an additional requirement beyond simply being physically born here. And it clearly suggests the ability of Congress to define such jurisdiction.

The history and record of the Congressional debates leading to the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment supports this too. As do how other people have been treated under the Fourteenth Amendment, including American Indians.

Passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in the mid-1860s invalidated the Supreme Court’s opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford, which held that United States citizenship could only be enjoyed by two classes of people: whites born in the United States as descendants of those who were citizens at the time the Constitution was signed or those who had since migrated to the United States and been naturalized.  But even with passage of the amendment, which granted citizenship to freed slaves, American Indians still didn’t receive full citizenship rights until 1924, when Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act.  In Supreme Court decisions since, specifically Rogers v. Bellei, Congress was recognized for having the authority to impose conditions on who can receive citizenship if the person in question is not “born or naturalized in the United States.”

In light of all this, I’ve introduced legislation in each Congress since 2011 that would clarify that birthright citizenship would only be given to children of U.S. citizens and legal resident aliens. By closing the loopholes in our immigration laws, we can live under and abide by the Fourteenth Amendment and further sound immigration policy.

There is broad bipartisan support, not just in Congress but across the country, to make this change. The American people recognize that we cannot continue with our current free-for-all birthright citizenship practice.

Isn't it time for us to make significant, real reforms to our immigration laws so that America – the world’s melting pot – can welcome immigrants in a legal, organized, and safe way? Let's get serious about that. Let's control our borders and the process of granting citizenship, including by ending birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Vitter is Louisiana’s senior senator, serving since 2005. He is chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, and also sits on the Banking, Housing and urban Affairs; the Environment and Public Works; and the Judiciary committees.