Citizenship as a birthright should not be extended to children born in the United States whose parents entered the country illegally, says Republican Timothy Wolfe, who is challenging incumbent Jan Schakowsky in the 9th Congressional District race.
Wolfe's comments came Thursday as he met with representatives of the Daily Herald editorial board.
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Wolfe, 59, of Arlington Heights is a political newcomer who runs his own tax and accounting practice. He advocates legislation that would change the constitutional provision allowing birthright citizenship "to not include people who are born here but whose parents are not here (legally)."
"They shouldn't be citizens in my opinion," Wolfe said. "If your parents are here legally, that's a totally different matter."
Schakowsky, 68, an Evanston Democrat and staunch liberal who has represented the 9th District for 14 years, said Wolfe wants to undo a couple hundred years of U.S. policy granting citizenship to those born here.
"It's part of our Constitution ... the definition of an American," she said. "That's a radical idea that would require an amendment to the Constitution."
Schakowsky said Wolfe's position denies the rich immigrant heritage of the United States. She added that his suggestions are antithetical to the welcoming attitude toward immigrants in the ethnically diverse 9th District.
The newly drawn 9th District includes parts of Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, Glenview, Mount Prospect, Niles, Palatine, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, Rolling Meadows, Rosemont and Wheeling, as well as areas east of the Tri-State Tollway.
Wolfe said he recognizes the need for immigration but believes the government should crack down on those living in the United States illegally.
"I am not advocating getting the policemen out, rousting up all the illegal immigrants and sending them back," he said. "But we need to cut off federal aid to sanctuary cities."
Wolfe used the term "anchor babies" for children whose parents immigrate illegally "strictly to get the benefits of being in the United States, including having the childbirth taken care of in a hospital here."
Those children shouldn't be rewarded with the right of citizenship, he added.
"They shouldn't have citizenship, if that means that they are going to move ahead of somebody else who has followed the process properly," Wolfe said. "This is a country of immigrants. There are areas where we need people with specific talents, generally in the sciences, medicine and technology. We should use immigration in a reasonable manner to bring those people here to help bolster our economy."
Schakowsky disagreed with the characterization that people who come to the United States illegally and have babies here are trying merely to game the system.
"I don't believe that there is some sort of epidemic of people that come here to do this," she said, adding that often what spurs illegal immigration are the desperate situations in their homelands.
"What we need is comprehensive immigration reform in our country that takes into account the many people who are here wanting to, and in fact, are contributing to our country," Schakowsky said. "It is immigration that is going to help make the United States of America economically viable in years to come."
Wolfe said while he doesn't support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, there may be a middle ground where someone who has been here a long time, has not been convicted of any crimes and has been paying taxes could get some type of permanent residency.
"My position would be to become a citizen you have to get in line behind the people who are already there," he said.
Wolfe also charged that the Obama administration has given illegal immigrants a pass with "Obamacare" or the Affordable Care Act, but Schakowsky said he is wrong.
"It does not, in fact, cover undocumented immigrants," she said. "They are not eligible."