Years before President Donald Trump announced plans to issue an executive order ending birthright citizenship, Democrats were already at work to do the same.
While his critics will attack Trump for his executive order plans, the idea is not a new one. With more than 150 years as the legal basis for determining citizenship, the long-standing interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment was challenged by previous administrations and by Democrats.
Former Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid supported putting an end to granting citizenship for any child born in the United States to non-U.S. citizens and once introduced legislation to do so.
The Immigration Stabilization Act of 1993 was introduced by the Nevada Democrat to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but failed to gain traction after being sent to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Refugee Affairs.
“If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant?” Reid asked in a U.S. Senate floor speech in 1993.
“No sane country would do that, right? Guess again,” he said.
“If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee a full access to all public and social services this society provides. And that’s a lot of services.” he added. “Is it any wonder that two-thirds of babies born at taxpayer expense in country — county-run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?”
The text of Reid’s proposed legislation, according to The Daily Caller, read:
TITLE X—CITIZENSHIP 4 SEC. 1001. BASIS OF CITIZENSHIP CLARIFIED. In the exercise of its powers under section of the Fourteenth Article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the Congress has determined and hereby declares that any person born after the date of enactment of this title to a mother who is neither a citizen of the United States nor admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident, and which person is a national or citizen of another country of which either of his or her natural parents is a national or citizen, or is entitled upon application to become a national or citizen of such country, shall be considered as born subject to the jurisdiction of that foreign country and not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States within the meaning of section 1 of such Article and shall therefore not be a citizen of the United States or of any State solely by reason of physical presence within the United States at the moment of birth.
Years later, the former senator, who slammed Republicans for pushing the same immigration position, apologized for his views and for supporting the legislation.
“I believe if I had to list the mistakes I have made, that legislation would be way up high,’ Reid says now. ‘It was short-sighted. I didn’t understand the issue. I’m embarrassed that I made such a proposal,” Reid told The Las Vegas Review Journal in 1999.
His legislation “slashed the limit of immigrants from 800,000 to 300,000 a year,” according to The Review Journal’s report six years prior.
‘We’ve got too many immigrants, legal and illegal,’ Reid said at the time.
Washington Post reporter Kerry Picket pointed out in a 2010 article that Reid’s flip-flop was based on the changing position of organized labor, and not a softening of his heart.
“Mr. Reid’s December 1999 interview with the Review Journal came only a few months after organized labor officially changer their immigration policy,” Picket wrote. “A funny coincidence indeed. Senator Reid’s so-called apologies for proposing his 1993 legislation were more about keeping the unions happy.”