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The Washington Independent

State Legislators Call for Changes to Citizenship Law, Equate ‘Anchor Babies’ to Child Abuse

A group of state legislators from across the country is planning to work together to create legislation to remove automatic birthright citizenship for children

Henry Hamer
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Oct 19, 2010

A group of state legislators from across the country is planning to work together to create legislation to remove automatic birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. The 14th Amendment provides citizenship to any child born in the country (except children of foreign diplomats), which Pennsylvania State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R) said creates an incentive for illegal immigrants to come to the United States. “It is not far-fetched to say many of these people are having babies for the purpose of having that anchor baby status to get benefits,” Metcalfe said at a press conference he organized this morning to announce the legislators’ project. “You’ve hit the jackpot when you come into the country illegally and have an anchor baby here.”

He called people who enter the country illegally “criminals” and “alien invaders,” and even equated having a child in the United States as a non-citizen with child abuse: “If an American citizen were to do the things to a baby that these people do to have ‘anchor baby’ status, you would probably be charged with child abuse,” he said. “They’re really exploiting these children. We do not let Americans who live the life of a criminal keep their children.”

Metcalfe, who founded the group State Legislators for Legal Immigration in 2007, said lawmakers in Nevada and Alabama have already signed onto his 14th Amendment Citizens Model Committee to draft bills related to citizenship. Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce (R), who also wrote Arizona’s contested SB 1070 immigration law, has also said he plans to introduce a state bill limiting citizenship to children born to American citizens.

The group will work with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the pro-enforcement Federation for American Immigration Reform, to write bills that can be introduced in state legislatures across the country. Although citizenship is federal issue, Metcalfe argued that states can determine citizenship because they issue the birth certificates. He said the group will work with lawyers and constitutional scholars to make sure the bill is legally viable. “We will ensure due diligence is done to make sure language will be written in a way that can be fought in the courts and ultimately be victorious in the courts,” Metcalfe said.

This seems difficult to do, given that various constitutional scholars have said such efforts would directly violate the 14th Amendment. There is also the question of whether removing birthright citizenship would actually slow illegal immigration. There is little data to prove that unauthorized immigrants cross the border only to have children here, and even if they do, those children cannot petition for their parents’ legal status for more than 20 years. Reports have shown that ending birthright citizenship would simply have the effect of increasing the population of illegal immigrants, since children of illegal immigrants would themselves not have legal status.

Also speaking at the press conference, Pennsylvania State Rep. Rob Kauffman said the citizenship effort, along with other enforcement measures, could help the country deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country without costly mass deportations.

“These are initiatives that will enable us to not round up illegal immigrants,” Kauffman said. “They will not come here if they do not receive these benefits. The spigot is turned off as you address these issues.”

Henry Hamer | I'm currently working for Google's Chrome team in Munich, Germany, as a developer advocate. I was a member of the team responsible for the online presence of, one of Germany's largest daily newspapers, from January 2010 to November 2011. I used to work for Yahoo! on their similarly massive European news pages before joining Sueddeutsche. I've concentrated my efforts on the internet, which has turned out to be a fantastic decision.


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