Flashback: Sen. Reid on Birthright Citizenship

By Jon Feere and Jon Feere on January 4, 2011

In 1993, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced legislation to clarify the scope of the 14th Amendment's Citizenship Clause and to end the practice of granting U.S. citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants.

Specifically, in a section titled "Basis of Citizenship Clarified," Reid's bill explained:

…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 the 14th Amendment] 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.[S.1351, Sec. 1001]

Reid's bill did more than just narrow the focus of the Citizenship Clause. The bill was written to significantly reduce annual flows of legal immigration, increase penalties related to illegal immigration, prevent the admission of aliens likely to need welfare, crack down on asylum fraud, and to meet other goals as explained in the following press release issued by his office on August 5, 1993:

In response to increased terrorism and abuse of social programs by aliens, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today introduced the first and only comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress.

Currently, an alien living illegally in the United States often pays no taxes but receives unemployment, welfare, free medical care and other federal benefits. Recent terrorist acts, including the World Trade Center bombing, have underscored the need to keep violent criminals out of the country.

Reid's bill, the Immigration Stabilization Act of 1993, overhauls the nation's immigration laws and calls for a massive scale-down of immigrants allowed into the country from approximately 800,000 to 300,000.

The bill also changes asylum laws to prevent phony asylum seekers. Reid said the U.S. open door policy is being abused at the expense of honest, working citizens.

"We are a country founded upon fairness and justice," Reid said. "An individual in real threat of torture or long-term incarceration because of his or her political beliefs can still seek asylum. But this bill closes the door to those who want to abuse America's inherent generosity and legal system."

Reid's bill also cracks down on illegal immigration. The 1990 census reported 3.3 million illegal aliens in America. Recent estimates indicate about 2.5 million immigrants illegally entered the United States last year.

"Our borders have overflowed with illegal immigrants placing tremendous burdens on our criminal justice system, schools and social programs," Reid said. "The Immigration and Naturalization Service needs the ability to step up enforcement.

"Our federal wallet is stretched to the limit by illegal aliens getting welfare, food stamps, medical care and other benefits often without paying any taxes.

"Safeguards like welfare and free medical care are in place to boost Americans in need of short-term assistance. These programs were not meant to entice freeloaders and scam artists from around the world.

"Even worse, Americans have seen heinous crimes committed by individuals who are here illegally," Reid said.

Specific provisions of Reid's Immigration Stabilization Act include the following:

-- Reduces annual legal immigration levels from approximately 800,000 admissions per year to about 300,000. Relatives other than spouse or minor children will be admitted only if already on immigration waiting lists and their admission does not raise annual immigration levels above 300,000.

-- Reforms asylum rules to prevent aliens from entering the United States illegally under phony "asylum" claims.

-- Expands list of felonies considered "aggravated" felonies requiring exclusion and deportation of criminal aliens. Allows courts to order deportation at time of sentencing.

-- Increases penalties for failing to depart or re-entering the United States after a final order of deportation order. Increases maximum penalties for visa fraud from five years to 10 years.

-- Curtails alien smuggling by authorizing interdiction and repatriation of aliens seeking to enter the United States unlawfully by sea. Increases penalties for alien smuggling.

-- Adds "alien smuggling" to the list of crimes subject to sanctions under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Expands the categories of property that are forfeited when used to facilitate the smuggling or harboring of illegal aliens.

-- Clarifies that a person born in the United States to an alien mother who is not a lawful resident is not a U.S. citizen. This will eliminate incentive for pregnant alien women to enter the United States illegally, often at risk to mother and child, for the purpose of acquiring citizenship for the child and accompanying federal financial benefits.

-- Mandates that aliens who cannot demonstrably support themselves without public or private assistance are excludable. This will prevent admission of aliens likely to be dependent on public financial support. This requirement extends to the sponsor of any family sponsored immigrant.

-- Increases border security and patrol officers to 9,900 full-time positions.

Considering that Reid was concerned about "3.3 million illegal aliens in America" who placed "tremendous burdens" on the nation's "criminal justice system, schools and social programs" back in 1993, it seems odd that he wouldn't be concerned about the 11 million illegal aliens in the country today who continue to create these tremendous burdens.

Reid also hasn't had much to say about the fact that, since just 2000, immigration has increased the number of workers without a high school diploma by 14 percent (of adult immigrants, 31 percent have not completed high school, compared to 8 percent of natives), that the proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 33 percent (compared to 19 percent for native households), that the poverty rate for immigrants and their U.S.-born children is 17 percent (nearly 50 percent higher than the rate for natives and their children), and that immigration accounts for virtually all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the last two decades. ["Immigrants in the United States, 2007: A Profile of America's Foreign-Born Population"]

Considering Reid's concern about population growth, it seems odd he hasn't commented on the fact that 13.1 million immigrants (both legal and illegal) have arrived in the United States since January 2000. In 1990, one in 13 people in the United States was an immigrant; today immigrants account for one in eight U.S. residents, the highest level in 80 years. Although the number of jobs declined in the past decade, 10.3 million green cards were issued from 2000 to 2009, more than in any decade in American history.

Since it has become abundantly clear that amnesty is wildly unpopular with the American public (and not a solution for illegal immigration, nor mass legal immigration), will Senator Reid abandon the failed agenda of the open-border crowd and find renewed interest in supporting rational immigration policies?