Some in Congress Work to Repeal Citizenship by Birth

To protect the children of invading armies from becoming citizens or something.

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A new phase of the immigration debate is heating up as some members of Congress and other lawmakers are working on an anti-birthright bill which would prevent children born in the US to illegal immigrant parents from being citizens.

"Currently, if you have a child born to two alien parents, that person is believed to be a U.S. citizen," says Randy Terrill, a Republican state representative in Oklahoma who is working on an anti-birthright bill. "When taken to its logical extreme, that would produce the absurd result that children of invading armies would be considered citizens of the U.S."

Bills to challenge the fact that citizenship is granted as a birthright in this country have been perennial nonstarters in Congress, although the current legislation has 91 co-sponsors. As with other issues surrounding immigration, however, some state legislatures still might act, if only in hopes of bringing this issue before the Supreme Court.

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The 14th Amendment, which was ratified in the wake of the Civil War, overturned the Dred Scott decision, clarifying that the children of former slaves were citizens and entitled to constitutional protections: "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."

Since then, courts have made it clear that this applies to the children of American Indians, visiting diplomats and Chinese guest workers, among other groups. The principle of birthright citizenship has never been successfully challenged, according to immigration lawyers.