Sen. Mitch McConnell defends hearings on birthright citizenship

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell referred Thursday to what 'seems to be a burgeoning and unseemly business' of flying illegal immigrants to the US to give birth to a child, who would be a US citizen under the 14th Amendment.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell weighs in on repealing the 14th Amendment provision for birthright citizenship at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters in Washington Thursday.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky defended Thursday the idea of holding hearings on what he said “seems to be a burgeoning and unseemly business” of flying illegal immigrants to the United States to give birth to a child who would automatically be a US citizen under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Some Republicans have come under criticism for suggesting a change in the 14th Amendment, which was adopted, under Republican Party leadership, after the Civil War to ensure citizenship for former slaves born on US soil.

One notable proponent of changing the provision is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, a key player on immigration issues. Senator Graham told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren last week that birthright citizenship “is a mistake” and that he “may introduce” a constitutional amendment to change the provision.

At a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for political reporters on Thursday, Senator McConnell was asked about a recent Washington Post column by Michael Gerson, the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush. Mr. Gerson wrote, “revoking birthright citizenship would turn hundreds of thousands of infants into 'criminals' – arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital. A whole class of people would grow up knowing they are hunted aliens, through no fault of their own. This cannot be called the rule of law. It would be viciousness and prejudice on a grand scale.”

McConnell played down the controversy. “First of all, I am not aware of anybody who has come out in favor of altering the 14th Amendment. What I think I have heard members say and what I have said myself based on a fairly fascinating piece in The Washington Post a couple of weeks ago about the rather unseemly business that has developed in many foreign countries of getting visas for people to come into the country, have a child, and get back on a plane and go back to their country. And this is the kind of thing that irritates Americans quite a lot.”

The Republican leader of the Senate said, “I don’t think having hearings on an obvious unseemly business is a threat to the 14th Amendment. What is wrong with looking into this? The Post did it. And I think what I hear my members saying is, why don’t we have some hearings and see what we can find out about what seems to be a burgeoning and unseemly business in many foreign countries?”

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