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Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to address you here on the floor of the United States House of Representatives and to bring to the attention of this body some subject matter that doesn't often get a debate here on the floor but it does get some discussion in Special Order time and sometimes in the 1-minute and 5-minutes that Members present to you here in this great deliberative place that we have the privilege to serve in.

One of the things that I wanted to bring before your attention here this evening is the immigration issue here in the United States. It is something that I don't know has been discussed here for some time. I bring this forward because it is an important issue. It is essential that we maintain and sustain and enhance the rule of law here in the United States. So I bring this forward. A number of things are on my mind.

The first thing that comes to mind for me is a subject that was reported on Fox News on July 11. I picked up this article and I wanted to express this to you on what is going on.

I introduced early in January, one of the first days of business here in this new 112th Congress, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011. Mr. Speaker, I brought this act forward working with people who have been leaders on this issue for some time. One of them would be our friend, Nathan Deal, now Governor Deal of Georgia, who was the lead on this issue when he served in the United States Congress. And some of the successor people involved would be Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia and the incoming freshman from Georgia, Rob Woodall; from California, Congressman Gary G. Miller, one who has been a strong proponent of the rule of law and standing up for the rights of American citizens. These people and others have been strong supporters of the Birthright Citizenship Act. And because of my role on the Immigration Committee where I have been for now going onto the 9th year, it seemed to be a better fit for me to carry this legislation, so I stepped forward with it because we needed to take a position.

What is going on, Mr. Speaker, is that in the United States of America, there are people who erroneously read the 14th Amendment of the Constitution in the component that addresses what we call birthright citizenship. It says, in the 14th Amendment, that all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are American citizens. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are American citizens.

Now, the circumstances are that it has created a misinterpretation. A misinterpretation of this section of the 14th Amendment has created birthright tourism. So we have, you might see a $30,000 turnkey operation going on where a pregnant woman in China, and she is probably going to have a benefactor that would sponsor this, could receive a turnkey operation for a little tourism trip into the United States, get her on an airplane and smuggle her into the United States one way or another where she would have a baby. She would be 8 1/2 months pregnant or so, theoretically, and have the baby here in the United States. The baby would get a nice, new American birth certificate with his little footprint stamped on it. And then that baby might go back to China with the baby's mother, or the mother might stay here in the United States with family and friends, whoever might want to harbor that mother and/or child. And when that child is old enough, the child can sponsor the entire family to come in the United States by virtue of that automatic citizenship that is conferred upon a child that is born here to an illegal mother and a who-knows father.

That is going on not just in rare circumstances, and certainly not just with Chinese. In fact, that is not one of the larger numbers. It is happening in this country someplace between 340,000 times a year and 750,000 times a year, Mr. Speaker. We have a people that sneak into the United States for the purpose of having a baby so that baby can become an American citizenship.

I believe, as the chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith, believes, that citizenship should be precious. It should be precious. It shouldn't be dealt out. It shouldn't be something that you can buy a turnkey ticket to game the system to have a baby that then is automatically an American citizen subject to the jurisdiction thereof.

Mr. Speaker, I will argue that Chinese woman that flies into the United States with a $30,000 turnkey tourism for birthright is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, not in the way that was envisioned by the people that wrote the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was put in place to guarantee that the babies born to formerly slaves, and then at that time of ratification freed slaves, would be American citizens, that the babies born to the freed slaves would not be denied all of the rights of citizenship as were guaranteed to them in the 13th and 14th Amendments. And it took into account that babies born on Indian reservations, some of them, would have lost their rights, their tribal rights on those reservations if they had become automatic American citizens. So some of the Native Americans said, no, they didn't want that conferred upon them.

The drafters of the 14th Amendment then wrote language in it to preclude automatic citizenship to any Homo sapien that was born within the territory of the United States. They also had to be subject to the jurisdiction thereof. And this Congress went through a great deal of debate in the House and in the Senate on what that actually meant in the clause, "subject to the jurisdiction thereof.''

It was not contemplated that the children of diplomats would become automatic American citizens. It was not contemplated that certain Native Americans born on certain reservations would be subject to the jurisdiction thereof and become American citizens. But it was contemplated that the children born to freed slaves would be American citizens.

It is a guarantee, and it was written with a significant amount of wisdom. They could not have anticipated that America would get so lazy and so lax that this constitutional amendment would drift its way into a practice, an erroneous practice of conferring automatic citizenship on mostly any baby that would be born in America.

Now, here is how it is. If there is a plane flying through the United States, and let's just say this plane is bound from China to Toronto, which does happen, Mr. Speaker. And it was going to be a flight that was going to be a direct flight and drop into Toronto, but because of weather conditions or maybe mechanical problems, it had to land in Chicago. Let's just say if there is a woman pregnant on that plane who is flying into Toronto and the plane lands in Chicago and it is stuck there for mechanical repairs or a weather-related delay and the woman is inside security and has the baby, the baby is not an American citizen. But if she walks through the security, is outside the security during the layover and has the baby out there, this baby is an American citizen.

That is what has been going on in the practice of this automatic citizenship that I think is an erroneous misinterpretation, and I think a willful misinterpretation, or probably more often a lazy misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

And so I have introduced the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011, along with the friends and colleagues that I have mentioned and many others, and a good number of cosponsors who take the position with me that if a child is born in America, has to be born to at least one legal parent in order to be a citizen of the United States. It is pretty simple. It clarifies the 14th Amendment. It clarifies the clause in the 14th Amendment, "subject to the jurisdiction thereof.'' Congress has the authority to do that.

I got concerned about this when there were a couple of Senators who were talking about the need to amend the Constitution to fix this problem.

Mr. Speaker, it doesn't require a constitutional amendment to fix the automatic citizenship practice that is so flawed that it confers an automatic citizenship on as many as 750,000 babies born to illegal parents here in the United States.

To give you an example, as I said, it's not just a Chinese woman who comes over here, pregnant, to have the baby here--and that happens on a very regular basis. It's often someone who comes in from a neighboring country. We know, of the criminal aliens that are in our prisons, two-thirds of them come from Mexico. One might presume that of a similar number of these automatic citizenship babies also their mothers are citizens of Mexico who are in the United States illegally, having the babies here and picking up that automatic citizenship, that birth certificate. They may or may not go back to their home country, but you can bet that when the time comes that that child will already be programmed to petition for the family reunification plan, which has our immigration plan in America out of control--out of control.

So what do we do about this?

The Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011.

It should be a simple decision for this United States Congress to address this situation, but some will argue, well, "subject to the jurisdiction thereof'' means nothing, that that clause in the 14th Amendment doesn't have meaning; therefore, it requires that they all be citizens. I think that is a very thin and a very marginal argument at best. The clause must mean something.

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,'' are American citizens. There is a reason that it says: "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.'' If everyone born in the territory of the United States is automatically a citizen, you would strike that language from the 14th Amendment "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,'' and it would simply read: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States'' are American citizens. If that were the intent, if that were the understanding of the 14th Amendment, that's what it would have said, Mr. Speaker, but it says: "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.'' The definition of that phrase is subject to the interpretation of the understanding of what it meant at the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment, and it meant that "subject to the jurisdiction thereof'' didn't mean that there was going to be automatic citizenship for illegals.

Granted, we didn't have much for immigration laws at the time. There wasn't enough human migration to be very concerned about it, but they clearly didn't intend to confer automatic citizenship on Native Americans born on reservations that were not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. They clearly didn't intend to confer automatic citizenship on the children born to the diplomats or their staff, or for tourists for that matter. I mention the tourism part when I explain what happens if a plane lands in Chicago on its way to Toronto and a baby is born. Which side of the security? Here is automatic citizenship on the U.S. side of the security. That's nuts, Mr. Speaker, but we've gotten lazy and lax with the practice of conferring automatic citizenship.

So people don't challenge it, and I'm really worried about an administration--actually, I've been worried about a couple of those administrations since I've arrived in this town--that doesn't seem to have much vigor for enforcing immigration law. It's pretty frustrating to be here in the United States Congress, pounding away to have to pass legislation to fix something that's just a matter of intellectual laziness; but the people who are enforcing this, the people who are handing out birth certificates almost like candy, aren't challenging it. They don't have a very good constitutional understanding or there would be some pushback out there from across the countryside.

In the OB ward of the hospitals around the country, they've got to have stacks of these birth certificates, and when a baby is born, it's almost an automatic process. Here is the footprint. Here is the data. Here is the birth certificate. Send that child off. He's an American citizen. What do we suppose happens if a diplomat or the wife of a diplomat or even a staff of the diplomat comes into the hospital to have a baby?

Do they meet them at the door and say, "Do you happen to be a diplomat? Are you here on some kind of foreign immunity, and you're planning on having a baby here, and do you think that baby is going to be an American citizen?''

"No, we're not going to allow it. Citizenship is not going to be cheapened like that.''

That doesn't happen, Mr. Speaker. What really happens is the children of diplomats are often conferred with automatic citizenship because the whole system of America is so automatic that any baby born inside the U.S. territory is just given the paperwork and the documents.

Here is an article that came out on Fox News, as I mentioned a little bit earlier, reported on July 11--by good, thorough people, I might add. This is Elizabeth Robichaux Brown who has written this article.

The Center for Immigration Studies says: "Foreign diplomats are obtaining U.S. birth certificates and Social Security numbers for their newborn children--effectively becoming U.S. citizens. On top of their new status in the world, these children carry an additional perk that most Americans do not have--diplomatic immunity.'' So it creates what the CIS describes as a "super citizen.'' Just like their parents, most are immune to the criminal jurisdiction of the United States, creating super citizens. These super citizens are, of course, children of diplomats, and all they need to have is a U.S. birth certificate and a Social Security number, and they're effectively American citizens.

Who is going to challenge it? There's no question on the birth certificate that asks the question: Are you a diplomat? Is one of your parents legal? an American citizen, perhaps? Those questions don't get asked. They just routinely stamp those birth certificates and send

those children off with automatic citizenship 340,000 to 750,000 times a year--some who are clearly not subject to the jurisdiction thereof.

In fact, in the concluding statement in the article, you've got a statement here from one of the proponents of the policy that I advocate, a statement that says: ``Despite Congress' clear intent to not create a completely universal and automatic birthright citizenship policy, the current application of the Citizenship Clause is so lax that the United States has a de facto universal birthright citizenship policy that denies U.S. citizenship by birth to no one, including children born to foreign diplomats.''

Mr. Speaker, that has to change. We intend to change that with the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011--that's H.R. 140--and I intend to be engaged in that and to be helping to move that legislation forward.

It has gotten to the point where the children of diplomats, with diplomatic immunity, are getting automatic American citizenship just because they're born inside the territory of the United States--perhaps not even born on U.S. soil. They might even potentially be born in that sovereign territory of the Embassy itself, and they're still American citizens.

Then, Mr. Speaker, we also have an out-of-control legal immigration system, aside from the illegal immigration, which I talk about quite a lot. If we look back over the last decade, we'll see that we brought in, roughly, one and a quarter legal immigrants a year. Over that last decade, if you would look at the new jobs created by the United States economy, those new jobs created are going to average about one and a quarter million jobs a year. This is before the recession began. These numbers held up then, and they're even stronger now. The new jobs created by the American economy have been almost exactly the same number of jobs that would be taken by the legal immigrants who come into the United States.

If we had shut down, slowed down, the legal immigration in the United States over the last 10 years, there would have been just, say, roughly, 10 million fewer legal immigrants in America, and we'd have 10 million fewer unemployed Americans. That's just a simple way of looking at this. I don't propose that we eliminate all legal immigration, not by any means, Mr. Speaker. What I do propose is that we do an economic analysis of this. When we look at real numbers of testimony that have come before the committee, under oath data, here is what we have:

A country should establish an immigration policy that is designed to enhance the economic, the social and the cultural well-being of the United States of America. That should be our task. Yet, with our legal immigration, that legal immigration that is based upon merit, when we take a look at what these individuals have to offer the United States, when we take a look at what they have for capital to invest or their ability to assimilate or their educational background or their relative youth so they've got some years to contribute before they start to draw from the system, these are all logical things that we should ask for.

But it's only between 7 and 11 percent of the legal immigration in American that is based upon anything that has to do with what's good for America. And the balance of it would be 89 to 93 percent of the legal immigration in America is out of the control of the value judgment of the American people, in the hands of the legal immigrants--or sometimes the illegal immigrants--themselves. It's out of our control.

Birthright citizenship is a piece of that that I'm not even sure is part of this equation that I've just described to you. There is a family reunification plan that takes up a big chunk of this, that once someone comes in they can start bringing in their family and their extended family, and it goes out like a tree to no end. We need to limit that family reunification plan. And we need to roll this thing back around and base the legal immigration in America on merit again--what do they have to offer the United States?

And Mr. Speaker, I will say also, we had testimony before the committee, and there were a number of strong faithful representatives that testified there. Some of them are national leaders in the faith community who argued that we need to find a way to accommodate the 11 million to 20 million illegals that are here in America and give them a path to citizenship. And every one of them said that they thought they should go to the back of the line. They should go to the back of the line, the 11 million to 20 million illegals in America should go to the back of the line, but we should give them a means by which they can earn American citizenship. Well, think about it, Mr. Speaker, go to the back of the line. Which line? I asked them, which line? Well, the back of the line. Now that's a talking point that apparently wasn't thought about any deeper than that because if they can't answer the question which line, they surely don't know where that line is. Is it in the United States or is it in lines in the foreign countries, people waiting to come into the United States?

I would submit that if those who are in the United States illegally are to go to the back of the line, it's not a line in the United States. The people in line to come into the United States legally are, by definition, not in the United States. They're outside the United States, they're in their home country, they're following the laws of America, they're lined up to come in the right way--God bless them for doing that. But that line, that line of legal waitees--to maybe coin a phrase--the line of people who are willing to respect American immigration law, get in line and wait in line isn't just some short little old line that you can put 11 million to 20 million people behind and think you're going to process them through. That line of the people who are respecting American laws and are waiting to come into the United States legally, none of them are in the United States. It's 50 million strong, Mr. Speaker; 50 million people have taken the trouble to line up to try to come into the United States legally.

We are the most generous country in the world by far, letting in around 1.25 million legal immigrants--a very small percentage of them actually come here because of merit, as I said--and meanwhile we've got 11 million to 20 million here in this country that have disrespected our laws. And I would suggest that I would much rather see the 11 million to 20 million who are in the line respecting American laws waiting to come in, I would like to see them come in and become American citizens ahead of those who have disrespected American laws. That sustains the rule of law. That upholds the rule of law. That strengthens us as a Nation. And rewarding law breakers weakens the rule of law and weakens us as a Nation and chisels away at that beautiful marble pillar of American exceptionalism called the rule of law. That's the equation.

And I hear constantly arguments from people that have their own interests, their own viewpoint. They need somebody to milk the cows or they need somebody to take care of their equestrian herd or they need somebody to do their gardening, they need somebody to be their butler or their maid. So they're saying, I can't afford to hire somebody in this country. You need to bring me some cheaper labor.

I would suggest that Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation is right: We have become a welfare state. And a household headed by a high school dropout, without regard to their immigration status, costs the taxpayer annually $23,449 a year. But it boils down to this: They will draw down $32,000 a year in benefits--a welfare state--they will pay $9,000 a year in taxes. And that's the change, that's the difference. And when you multiply it times 50 years of managing the household, being the head of the household, 50 years, it costs the taxpayers an average of $1.5 million to subsidize that household. And that's a high school dropout. Now it may not get worse when they're an illegal high school dropout, but it doesn't get a lot better. There is a net number, too, that he produces, I think that's around the order of $19,499 a year. In this area, let's say $20,000 a year, plus or minus a thousand or two, for a household headed by a high school dropout and/or an illegal immigrant.

Now the burden to the taxpayer, because we're a welfare state, can't be ignored. And the weight on the taxpayers, when we have an oversupply of cheap labor and an undersupply of taxpayers, and 47 percent of households don't pay income tax, we're living in a welfare state, and we're giving automatic citizenship to 340,000 to 750,000 babies a year that are born to an illegal mother who sneaks into the United States.

And then the President has the temerity to go down to the border in El Paso and make fun of people who think like I do, that say let's build a fence, a wall and a fence. He said some will want a moat, some will want alligators in it. He was standing down there within 220 yards of this, Mr. Speaker. This is El Paso, Texas. This is Juarez, Mexico. Some people would want a moat, some people would want a fence, some would want alligators in it--I don't think there are any alligators in here, Mr. Speaker. But this is the aerial picture that I had seen just a few weeks before the

President gave this speech in El Paso. The records are good--not many people are getting across the border here. Why? Because we have--here's a fence right here, this is the Rio Grande River. We have a fence, a river, another fence--here is a patrol road that is patrolled by the Border Patrol. There is a Border Patrol vehicle right here, another one up around the curve--a patrol road, then another fence, then a canal that's forwarding a lot of water, and it flows pretty fast, then another fence. If you can get over that, you're in the United States, into El Paso, and maybe you can catch a ride here and you're home free.

Not a moat, not a moat with alligators; you might say two moats and four fences--a fence, the Rio Grande River, a fence, a patrol road, a fence, a canal with flowing water--and deep--another fence, and then you're off into the United States. Three of those fences you have to climb wet. This is very effective. And the President is standing within 220 yards of that making fun of Americans who think that physical structures help control illegal immigration.

So we're spending $12 billion a year on this southern border, enforcing it and chasing people across the desert 100 miles into the United States. And out of that $12 billion a year, that's $6 million a mile, on average, for every mile on our southern border. I can build you a fence, a wall and a fence for about $2 million a mile, about one-third of the annual budget. And I don't suggest that we build 2,000 miles of it right away, Mr. Speaker. I suggest that we start building it and stop building when they stop going around the end. That's the scenario, that's the logical way to address this. Build a fence, a wall and a fence; use the funding that we have, roll it into that kind of infrastructure. It is effective. And the President's staff didn't serve him very well if he was standing with his back to a fence, a river, a fence, a patrol road, another fence, a canal, and another fence. Those are the barriers to get into the United States, and he's making fun of it. And the Border Patrol is telling us this is effective. It is effective. It's been effective in El Paso, it keeps them in Juarez. It's been effective in San Luis in southwest Arizona. It's not effective where there is nothing. And we have to pay a lot of people a lot of time and money to chase all over the desert after people that walked around the end.

Let's build it until they stop going around the end. Let's pass the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011. Let's make sure that the kind of security that is in El Paso can be applied in other high-traffic areas. Build a fence until they stop going around the end, and then, Mr. Speaker, we can also pass my New Idea Act, which shuts off the Federal deductibility for wages and benefits paid to illegals, brings the IRS into this mix, and gives the employer safe harbor. All of that. Simple solutions to a complex problem, Mr. Speaker.

I would conclude with that statement, thank you for your attention, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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