As one of its first acts, the new Congress will consider denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who are born in the United States.
Those children, who are now automatically granted citizenship at birth, will be one of the first targets of the Republican-led House when it convenes in January.
GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the incoming chairman of the subcommittee that oversees immigration, is expected to push a bill that would deny “birthright citizenship” to such children.
The measure, assailed by critics as unconstitutional, is an indication of how the new majority intends to flex its muscles on the volatile issue of illegal immigration.
“I don’t like it,” said Chad Silva, statewide policy analyst for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. “It’s been something that’s been a part of America for a very long time. . . . For us, it sort of flies in the face of what America is about.”
An estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 were the children of undocumented immigrants, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center done last year.
The issue is dividing Republicans, too.
“We find both this rhetoric and this unconstitutional conduct reprehensible, insulting and a poor reflection upon Republicans,” DeeDee Blasé, the founder of Somos Republicans, a Latino GOP organization based in the Southwestern states, said in a letter to House Republican leaders.
Silva said the Republican plan is “not the fix,” adding that the citizenship of children born to immigrants was never an issue during the immigration tide at the turn of the 20th century and that it shouldn’t be now.
“That’s our strength,” he said. “And to start splitting hairs like that will only make the immigration issue worse.”
Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento called King’s plan “both unconstitutional and shortsighted.”
[Rep. Tom] McClintock noted that the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, France and India have all changed their laws in recent years to require that at least one parent be a legal resident for the child to become a legal citizen.
Lungren, who served as California’s attorney general from 1990 to 1998 introduced a similar bill in 2007, but it did not pass the House, which was controlled by Democrats at the time.
His bill called for defining what “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” means. Lungren proposed that the clause would apply to any person born to a parent who is a citizen, a legal alien or an alien serving in the military.