Sen. Lindsey Graham abandoned the immigration plan he helped write in favor of the climate bill he also helped write and later abandoned. But that doesn't mean he's not interested in working on immigration issues; it's just that his priority now is repealing the 14th Amendment that grants citizenship to everyone born on American soil:
“I may introduce a constitutional amendment that changes the rules if you have a child here,” Graham said during an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “Birthright citizenship I think is a mistake, that we should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child's automatically not a citizen.”
Asked how intent Graham is on introducing the amendment, the South Carolina Republican responded: “I got to.”
“People come here to have babies,” he said. “They come here to drop a child. It's called "drop and leave." To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child's automatically an American citizen. That shouldn't be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”
At least Graham has the intellectual honesty to propose a constitutional amendment rather than pretending that the intent of the 14th Amendment wasn't to end the practice of race-based citizenship. Let's face it, this isn't exactly directed at the children of Irish
immigrants. As with a constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage, curtailing constitutional rights based on the social anxieties of the day seems like a bad
idea to me. And such an amendment wouldn't just target the children of illegal immigrants, but anyone in the United States legally or illegally who isn't an American citizen. It's been a hundred years since American politicians tried to ban Chinese immigrants, and things don't seem to have changed that much.
An amendment ending birthright citizenship wouldn't really alter the economic incentives that cause people to enter the country illegally -- it would just make conditions more hopeless for their children, who would be American in all but a legal sense. It would also be a nightmare for millions of American citizens who lack readily available proof of citizenship, and would necessitate more government resources to help establish the citizenship status not just of children born to immigrants, but to American citizens as well, since you'd have to prove your citizenship before your child could be granted a U.S. birth certificate. All in all, doing such a thing would make life more complicated for everyone, miserable for a minority, and probably wouldn't do much to solve the problem of illegal immigration. I can't imagine why any self-identified "small government" conservatives would support such a thing.
Amending the Constitution is extremely difficult, but it might win Graham some goodwill among conservatives who see him as a traitor, even though he hasn't actually delivered anything more than bipartisan gestures. Come to think of it, this probably isn't any different.