Lindsey Graham Takes Aim At “Anchor Babies”

Immigration "moderate" Lindsey Graham is suddenly sounding not so moderate.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who has long been criticized by conservatives as weak on immigration, is now telling Fox News that he’s considering spearheading an effort to amend the Constitution to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced Wednesday night that he is considering introducing a constitutional amendment that would change existing law to no longer grant citizenship to the children of immigrants born in the United States.

Currently, the 14th Amendment grants citizenship to any child born in the United States.

But with 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., Graham said it may be time to restrict the ability of immigrants to have children who become citizens just because they are born in the country.

“I may introduce a constitutional amendment that changes the rules if you have a child here,” Graham said during an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “Birthright citizenship I think is a mistake …  We should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child’s automatically not a citizen.”

Asked how intent Graham is on introducing the amendment, the South Carolina Republican responded: “I got to.”

“People come here to have babies,” he said. “They come here to drop a child. It’s called “drop and leave.” To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child’s automatically an American citizen. That shouldn’t be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”

It’s rather surprising to hear rhetoric like this coming from Graham, who has long been much more moderate on immigration issues than other Republicans, and one has to wonder if, like his friend John McCain, he’s seeing the political writing on the wall. He’s not up for re-election until 2014 but, you know, it’s never to early to start pandering.

Moreover, while there does seem to be a “birth tourism” market out there, it accounts for a few thousand births a year at most and, due to it’s cost, is clearly not within the financial resources of your average immigrant from Mexico or Central America. It hardly justifies toying with one of the most important Amendments to the Constitution, and Amendment made necessary, because of the way that blacks were treated in Graham’s home state.

Could an Amendment of this type actually get adopted ? It’s hard to say. There is certainly high public support out there right now for restrictive immigration policies and a crackdown on illegal immigration, but public passion on this issue fluctuates, usually in response to economic conditions. The passion we see today may not be there in a year or two when a proposed Amendment might be taken up by Congress and, if it passes, sent to the states.

My own inclination is to leave things where they are. The 14th Amendment has served the Republic well as it is, and “anchor babies” are hardly the biggest problem facing the nation.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Law and the Courts, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Herb says:

    Parents with “anchor babies” get deported all the time.

    This is not just pandering. It’s blooming ignorant.

  2. sam says:

    Maybe Butters is feeling some Tea Party heat and decided to go into full on “Don’t Melt Me, Bro” mode.

  3. just me says:

    I would actually want to see a legitimate study that indicates just how many illegal immigrants have children for the purpose of creating the “anchor” to stay here. I am also curious how many parents get deported when they have the said “anchor” babies.

    While I can see why there is a push to stop birthright citizenship, I am not sure it is something that needs to be done. I also don’t think it would actually be ratified by enough states. I think there are certainly some states that would do so, but I suspect this is an amendment if it did pass congress would end up going the way of the ERA.

  4. This of course creates and interesting puzzle:

    If being born here no longer makes you a citizen, how do you prove you are a US citizen for the purposes of the new law in Arizona?

    Either you have to be able to produce a certificate of naturalization, or a birth certificate and proof that your parents were citizens. But how do you show that? Well, you have to be able to produce their certificates of naturalization, or their birtch certificates and proof that your grandparents were all citizens. And so, on…

    If this ammendment passes, any person living in Arizona will have to research their entire family history, locate the first relative in each branch to immigrate to America, and then locate copies of their naturalization certificates and birth certificates for everyone between them and the present generation. They will be required to carry all of this documentation with them at all times, under threat of arrest.

    And god help you if someone in your family tree was an orphan, or who’s birth wasn’t officially recorded, or the descendant of someone who’s parents came here and then never actually bothered to naturalize. You’re suddenly no longer a US citizen.

  5. just me says:

    If this ammendment passes, any person living in Arizona will have to research their entire family history, locate the first relative in each branch to immigrate to America, and then locate copies of their naturalization certificates and birth certificates for everyone between them and the present generation. They will be required to carry all of this documentation with them at all times, under threat of arrest.

    I actually don’t think it has to be that complicated. There are many countries in the world that do not recognize birthright citizenship and somehow their citizens manage to prove citizenship without having to dig back generations to prove citizenship.

    I am not sure if/how many hoops a person has to go through in a country that doesnn’t recognize birthright citizenship to prove citizenship, but I hardly picture it being what you describe.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    He must be feeling the heat. Amazing how all these originalists suddenly decide originalism doesn’t work when it comes up against their political opinions. This has zero chance of happening so it much more likely a bit of a charade to keep Graham in with his base.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    I think the GOP needs to make up its mind: Is Mexican-bashing the new base-stimulation strategy, or is it the Muslim hating thing?

    And a question for James and the other rational Republicans here: how do you stand being a member of a party that goes looking for ethnic and religious groups to scapegoat?

    How do you lock arms with the base that feeds on this, and the politicians who profit from it?

    I know you guys are good people, I know you resist this kind of hate-based politics. But is there a point at which you’ll find it so uncomfortable sharing a tent with these people that you have to stand up and walk away?

  8. André Kenji says:

    “There are many countries in the world that do not recognize birthright citizenship and somehow their citizens manage to prove citizenship without having to dig back generations to prove citizenship. ”

    Many of these countries are terrible examples: some years ago there was a bodybuilding champion born in Germany, son of Egyptian and a Yuguslavian, and no one really knew his nationality.

    On most of them, the government has much more data about you than in US. Much, much more.

  9. Michael,

    I might have an answer for you, speaking for myself only.  Ten years ago I was proudly Republican and loved how the Republicans had taken over Congress and brought President Clinton to the center.  Somewhere in all of this, I also noticed that Clinton was a very good president.

    For whatever reason — maybe it was there and I didn’t notice it — all of the garbage like immigration was not an issue, and Bush was open to it, which I liked.  I never cared too much for him and his signature initiatives, like tax cuts, I was sort of wobbly on.  Nevertheless, I voted for him in 2000 and held my nose and did the same in 2004.

    All of this ideological purity and tea party stuff has come since then and is pushing me away quickly.  I’m a RINO at the moment who has never voted for a Democrat, but that could change.  (In fairness, it would have changed in 2008 if I had gotten my registration set up in time.)  The party is different now and my views have changed pretty dramatically in some areas (like health care).

    It isn’t so much a matter of the party having left me as it’s a matter of us kind of going our separate ways.

  10. A.J.Lehe says:

    Yeah, let’s beat up on those nasty anchor babies. If we could’nt handle the Taliban or even stop the construction of a Grand Mosque at Ground Zero, NYC, let’s jump on them anchor babies and show everybody just how Libertarian brain-dead we really are!
    Maybe AZ or SC will build the first Anchor Baby Concentration Camp?