Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) isn’t known as an immigration hawk, but on Tuesday he took on an issue many other Republican politicians have ducked — so-called birthright citizenship.
The term refers to the widely understood belief that the 14th Amendment automatically confers citizenship on nearly any baby born on U.S. soil — regardless of whether the parents have a connection to the United States.
Graham said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that the policy acts as a strong incentive for illegal immigration. He noted that the United States is one of a small handful of countries that recognize birthright citizenship.
“That is crazy. I’ve been pretty out there on immigration, but to me, it is stupid to continue that law, to allow people to come here to have a child,” he said. “If you go to France to have a child, they’re not a French citizen.”
It is not a new position for Graham. He was among the Republican presidential contenders in 2015 who proposed eliminating birthright citizenship. And he talked about the issue years before that as well.
Still, it is jarring rhetoric from the Republican who is, perhaps, most associated with amnesty. Graham was an early co-sponsor of legislation to offer a path to citizenship to millions of young adult illegal immigrants who came to America as children. And he was a leader in the so-called Gang of Eight, who attempted to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 and 2014.
But Graham told host Laura Ingraham that offering leniency to illegal immigrants will only invite more illegal immigration if not backed up by measures to stop the next wave. He said that includes requiring businesses to use the E-Verify system to ensure that new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States.
“Doing away with birthright citizenship would be a huge step forward to prevent future illegal immigration,” he added.
“It does entice people to break your laws.”
The Supreme Court never has directly considered whether birthright citizenship applies to the babies of illegal immigrants or tourists, and some legal scholars argue that the 14th Amendment is more limited.
From time to time, news organizations have aired or published stories detailing Chinese or Russian women coming to America to give birth so that their children will be U.S. citizens.
“They have these resorts, Laura, where you can come as a Chinese tourist, bring your wife, who is about to give birth,” Graham said. “And they have a maternity ward at the resort. You come in and have a great time, have your child, and all of a sudden, that child’s [an American] citizen.”
On the East Coast, Graham added, wealthy women from the Middle East and other places visit birth tourist centers. “That, to me, is obscene,” the senator said.
Graham said there is a reason most countries do not sanction birthright citizenship.
“It does entice people to break your laws,” he said. “But the idea of coming here on a tourist visa and having a child, and they become an American citizen, is just a piece of the process also.”