Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would end “unqualified” birthright citizenship for children whose parents are not themselves U.S. citizens.
The legislation, titled the “End Birthright Citizenship Fraud Act of 2023,” would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act “to reflect the original intent of the 14th Amendment’s ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ clause,” according to a statement on the measure.
The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to all “born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”
The amendment was passed in 1866, shortly after the Civil War, to ensure citizenship and equal rights for formerly enslaved people.
The 1898 Supreme Court case United States v. Wong Kim Ark upheld the idea the 14th Amendment applies to children regardless of their parents’ immigration status.
Birthright citizenship has become a favored target of hard-line conservatives. Former President Trump, who toyed with moving against it during his time in office, has pledged to end it on his first day in office if he returns to the White House, though experts say a president would lack that legal authority on their own.
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If passed, Gaetz’s legislation would deny automatic citizenship at birth to children born in the U.S. to parents who are not U.S. citizens, while “excluding aliens lawfully admitted as refugees or permanent residents or performing active services in the U.S. Armed Forces.”
The bill claims birthright citizenship has “enabled an entire black market,” citing estimates of 33,000 births to women on tourist visas annually, and “hundreds of thousands more” born to undocumented immigrants or those on temporary visas, “many of whom have misrepresented the purpose of their trip to avoid scrutiny.”
It is not clear if the removal of birthright citizenship can happen through legislation.
“Birthright citizenship has been grossly misapplied for decades, recently becoming a loophole for illegal aliens to fraudulently abuse our immigration system,” Gaetz said in a statement, adding that his bill shows “American citizenship is a privilege — not an automatic right to be co-opted by illegal aliens.”
The Florida Republican, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the bill will “preserve the sanctity of American citizenship” and ensure citizenship is something that is “earned” from legal migration to the U.S.
The bill comes as the Judiciary Committee is slated to question Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday regarding the agency’s operations and immigration in particular.