(guardian.co.uk)-- Senior Republicans have escalated the increasingly bitter fight over immigration with proposals to rewrite the US constitution to block the children of illegal aliens from obtaining citizenship.
In the latest move to inflame the racially tinged issue ahead of November's congressional and state elections, Republican senators say they intend to call hearings on overturning the 14th amendment to the constitution, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the US. Leading Republicans have denounced the provision as outdated, saying it encourages "invasion by birth canal" in which illegal immigrants smuggle themselves into the US to have "anchor babies".
The change is being pushed by the Republican whip in the Senate, John Kyl, and senator Lindsey Graham, who said that "birthright citizenship is a mistake".
"People come here to have babies," said Graham. "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 is automatically an American citizen. That shouldn't be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons."
Kyl and Graham support changing the 14th amendment to specifically bar the children of illegal immigrants from citizenship.
"If both parents are here illegally, should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?" said Kyl.The move has been given added momentum by the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who has thrown his weight behind the proposal for hearings on the issue.
Lamar Smith, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives judiciary committee, has introduced legislation to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. More than 90 members of the House are co-sponsoring the bill.
Advocates of tighter restrictions, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform , estimate that more than 425,000 children are born to illegal aliens in the US each year.
"The funds that state and local governments must provide to anchor babies amounts to a virtual tax on US citizens to subsidise illegal aliens," the group claimed. "The anchor baby problem has grown to such large proportions that the United States can no longer afford to ignore it. The logical first step for correcting the problem is for Congress to adopt legislation clarifying the meaning of the 14th amendment."
The 14th amendment was adopted in 1868 after the civil war to block laws that prevented former slaves from becoming US citizens. Reform must be approved by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and ratified by three-quarters of US states or by calling a convention by the states.The Obama administration won a court injunction last week against key parts of Arizona's legislation that requires police to check the immigration status of suspected illegal aliens.