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Steve King Moves Forward on Bill to End Birthright Citizenship


Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET with a correction.

Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a leading conservative voice on immigration issues, introduced a bill on Wednesday to end the practice of birthright citizenship.

The bill would amend section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to clarify those classes of individuals born in the United States who are nationals and citizens of the United States at birth.

It's generally thought that the 14th Amendment provides a constitutional guarantee of citizenship for anyone born in the United States -- known as "birthright citizenship" -- but King told Hotsheet last year that he does not interpret the 14th Amendment that way.

Concerns about illegal immigration last year spurred some Republicans to call for a debate over birthright citizenship, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said last year he was considering proposing a constitutional amendment so that children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants would not automatically be citizens.

King is a senior Republican on the immigration subcommittee in the House Judiciary Committee. However, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told Politico last year that issues like birthright citizenship will "not [be] our initial focus" in the committee.

"The focus is on creating jobs and protecting jobs," Smith said, adding that he would first take up issues like expanding E-Verify, a voluntary electronic system for checking the immigration status of workers that's supported by President Obama.

So far, King's bill has three co-sponsors listed: Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), Gary Miller (R-Calif.) and Rob Woodall (R-Ga.).

Meanwhile, holding Washington's feet to the fire on the issue, Republican state lawmakers from five states came to the capitol Wednesday to unveil their own state-driven plan to curtail birthright citizenship. The lawmakers said that legislation addressing the issue will be introduced in 14 states, though they expect it to be immediately challenged in court as unconstitutional.

It was a state law passed in Arizona last year, one that made it a state crime to be in the country undocumented, which brought back the issue of illegal immigration and birthright citizenship to the forefront of national debate in the first place.

UPDATE: This story was updated to note that King is not the chairman of the immigration subcommittee.

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