Republicans have already poisoned the debate over an anti-human trafficking bill by inserting anti-abortion language into the legislation, and if Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) gets his way, the bill will contain yet another divisive provision.
As senators haggle over GOP language that bans using fines paid by traffickers to fund victims' abortions, NOLA.com reports that Vitter aims to tack on an amendment that would end deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants.
Vitter's amendment contravenes the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause, which confers citizenship on "all persons born or naturalized in the United States." Supreme Court precedent dating to the 19th century affirms that the clause applies to the U.S.-born children of noncitizens.
"I hope my colleagues, whatever their feelings on this issue, will understand, you cannot amend the Constitution by a statute," Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) said of Vitter's amendment. "I thought that was in basic Senate 101."
Vitter has defended his amendment by resorting to the right's "anchor baby" shibboleth.
"There is a whole industry, an underworld, that is selling so-called birth tourism," Vitter said. "This acts as a magnet -- a potent, powerful magnet growing in power by the year to lure more and more folks to come across the border in specific cases to have their babies here, 300,000 to 400,000 per year."
As Time magazine noted back in 2010, the statistics on which Vitter relies don't actually illustrate the point he's trying to prove. While he suggests that up to 400,000 women come to the U.S. simply to have babies who will then become citizens, the data show that more than 80 percent of the estimated 340,000 unauthorized women who gave birth in 2008 had been in the U.S. for more than a year.
Senators are slated to vote tomorrow on whether to proceed with the anti-trafficking bill, the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act, and they're also expected to act on Vitter's amendment then.
First elected to the Senate in 2004, Vitter is currently vying to become governor of Louisiana ahead of elections there this November.