Rep. Brian Bilbray Brings 14th Amendment ‘Urban Legend’ Debate Home To California

Since taking office, Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) has tried and failed to pass seven pieces of legislation that would either repeal or reinterpret the 14th Amendment’s definition of citizenship. Bilbray is now taking his anti-14th Amendment crusade to the state-level, backing the Taxpayer Revolution’s “Anchor Baby” reform initiative which seeks to limit the rights and benefits of the U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants by redefining the 14th Amendment’s jurisdiction.

The California Taxpayer Protection Act of 2010, as it is called, is referred to as a bill for “real world citizens.” What that means, apparently, is that the American-born children of undocumented immigrants would be denied a standard birth certificate and would instead receive a “Foreign Parent” certificate. In order to even register for a birth certificate, undocumented parents would have to provide fingerprints and information that would be reported to federal authorities for deportation. The same applies to parents seeking benefits for their children. However, in their eagerness to rid California of its immigrant population, Bilbray and the bill’s supporters didn’t consider the possibility that most undocumented mothers and fathers will instead choose not to report their child’s birth or seek needed medical care at all, and instead go deeper underground.

Bilbray’s birdbrained 14th Amendment schemes aren’t just impractical, the idiocy of his arguments is insulting. According to Bilbray:

It is an urban legend that everybody born here is an automatic citizen. When international diplomats are here in the U.S. and they have children, they are not given citizenship…You can’t get a million dollars from your parents if they don’t have it. If your parents have nothing you inherit nothing…This extreme abuse is why we need to get back to the Founding Fathers meaning of immigration. Why are we providing services for Tijuana and not La Paz?”

Urban legend? Actually, in case anyone needed clarification, the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly ruled in United States v. Wong Kim Ark that anyone born in the United States would be a citizen regardless of their parents’ nationality. Also, as Joshua Holland of Alternet points out, the 14th Amendment only applies to those “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” The children of diplomats, however, are subject to diplomatic law. In his support of the proposed California legislation, Bilbray also randomly cited the Calvin Case of 1608 which stipulated who would be considered “loyal English subjects” that enjoyed the King’s protection.


Bilbray was paid $300,000 by the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) to promote their racist views on the Hill, according to Holland. Now he’s getting paid by the federal government to wage a xenophobic attack on its own constitution. The language of the petition to pass the California bill reads:

“The initiative’s laws will REQUIRE issuance of the official ‘CALIFORNIA BIRTH CERTIFICATE’ for births to ONLY baptized Christian, Jew, or both, citizens and legal permanent residents. Birth to Foreign Parent document issued to all others…Our citizens’ movement will launch the national debate we need to bring an END to illegal ‘birth tourism’ and AUTOMATIC CITIZENSHIP in the United States of America. The movement will uphold the recorded words and real intent of God, Jesus Christ, and the authors of our Constitution.”

Bilbray’s mother emigrated from Australia to the U.S. as a non-citizen. He’s conveniently “carved out exceptions” that would apply to him in all the bills he’s written and backed.