When people discuss our nation’s immigration policies, what becomes clear is that the system is broken, and tangible solutions are needed. Take birthright citizenship, for example. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants we admit each year, our country must also prepare for the economic, educational, health care and infrastructure responsibilities and consequences of illegal immigrants who cross the border and then have a child in the USA.
The status quo understanding of the 14th Amendment allows for a child born of illegal immigrants on U.S. soil — via birthright citizenship — to be granted full citizenship rights and access to all public and social services our society provides. That’s a lot of services.
Recently, there have been raids of “maternity hotels,” where foreign women paid exorbitant amounts of money to visit the USA in the final few months of pregnancy in order to abuse our government’s misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment. While it seems unbelievable, hundreds of thousands of babies each year are the offspring of illegal immigrants.
We need a solution. That’s why I looked closely at the 14th Amendment, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”
“Subject to the jurisdiction thereof” seems pretty clear to me. Congress is afforded the authority to clarify the statutory language so that foreign citizens don’t take advantage of our constitutional rights. I’ve introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to make those necessary clarifications and close the loopholes in our immigration laws to make sure that birthright citizenship is given only to the children of U.S. citizens and legal resident aliens.
It is flat out wrong for children of illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens just because they were born here, especially when it’s justified using a false technicality of the Constitution. The only way we can move forward with immigration reform is to make sure we aren’t dropping the ball at the beginning. One place to start is preventing birth tourism and focusing on a brighter American future that admits and welcomes foreign citizens legally through a thoughtful process.
Sen. David Vitter is a Republican from Louisiana. This piece originally appeared at USA Today.