Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), who is challenging Sen. John McCain in the August 24 primary, has explained another reason to repeal birthright citizenship for all people born in the United States: That “birth tourism” is resulting in people around the world timing their pregnancies so that births coincide with visits to America.
During an appearance this morning on MSNBC, Hayworth said: “It’s not exclusive to our neighbors to the south, from Mexico. Many families around the world in the jet age are timing the gestation period to come to the United States, to have the blessed event here, so that the new birthright citizen will have access to a phalanx of American benefits, courtesy of you and me and other American taxpayers.”An ABC News story earlier this year reported that actual birth tourism does exist as a real phenomenon — separate from the issue of the children of illegal immigrants — but accounts for perhaps only a few thousand births per year. Given the costs involved, these would probably be the children of well-off families who would likely not require financial benefits of American citizenship, but would be seeking such a thing more from a legal standpoint.
The TPM Poll Average shows McCain leading Hayworth by 53.6%-32.1%.
Birthright citizenship is a legal principle based in the 14th Amendment: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” In the absence of birthright citizenship, it is possible for people to be born without having citizenship in any country at all, due to failure to meet some extra requirement that could be imposed, such as ancestry or other circumstances.
During his appearance, Hayworth added: “The original intent of the 14th Amendment, as offered by Sen. Jacob Howard, dealt with the clause ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof.’ In his floor speech, Sen. Howard made it very clear that diplomats nor aliens, were subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Ergo, their children would not have birthright citizenship.”
The quote from Sen. Howard is a bit more ambiguous than that: “This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the government of the United States, but will include every other class of person.” It’s unclear whether Howard was referring to different categories of people, or a single category or foreigners who belong to the families of ambassadors. At any rate, courts have historically interpreted the clause in its most broad fashion.
Hayworth is not the only conservative to oppose birthright citizenship — nor to provide some interesting reasons why. A month ago, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) warned of a diabolical 30-year plot by some very patient terrorists, in a speech on the House floor: “I talked to a retired FBI agent who said that one of the things they were looking at were terrorist cells overseas who had figured out how to game our system. And it appeared they would have young women, who became pregnant, would get them into the United States to have a baby. They wouldn’t even have to pay anything for the baby. And then they would turn back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then one day, twenty, thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life.”