Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King — who has endorsed neo-Nazi views on Twitter, defended a white nationalist, and has a well-documented history of making racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant comments — has pushed to end birthright citizenship in the US since long before Donald Trump even became president.
Since 2011, King has led efforts in Congress to push for removing citizenship rights for the children of noncitizens born on American soil — a right that is guaranteed by the US Constitution.
King — who is up for reelection this November — is the lead author of HR 140, a bill that proposes to consider a baby born in the US for citizenship only if at least one of its parents is a US citizen or national, a lawful permanent resident, or an alien serving in the US army.
King has introduced the bill in every Congress since 2011, and most recently in March 2017. Each time, the bill dies in the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, as the Republican leaders never take it up.
On Tuesday, King’s hardline immigration rhetoric was endorsed by Trump, who said that he planned to sign an executive order intending to end birthright citizenship in the US.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said in an interview with Axios. “You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
Trump didn’t specify who had told him this. King, who recently met with Trump at the White House, wrote a column in 2015 titled, “Ending birthright citizenship does not require a constitutional amendment.”
Most legal experts believe this is inaccurate. Even if Trump signs the executive order, it will likely end up in court, and the Supreme Court has made a clear ruling on the right of citizenship for those born in the US.
However, King — who has said things like “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” — was “very happy” that his legislation “will soon be adopted by the White House as national policy.”
In a statement Tuesday, King called birthright citizenship a “historical mistake” and said Trump’s proposed order would “decimate the disgusting ‘birth tourist’ industry” and put an end to “anchor babies.”
“I am delighted to learn that President Trump intends to end automatic citizenship at birth for the children of illegal aliens whose parents have no ties, and owe no allegiance, to the United States,” King said. “Ending ‘birthright citizenship’ for illegal aliens will decimate the disgusting ‘birth tourism’ industry, and it will ensure that illegal aliens cannot use ‘anchor babies’ in order to take advantage of our overly generous welfare system.”
King’s various efforts to push the bill has enjoyed some support from his fellow Republicans in Congress.
When he first introduced the bill in 2011, only three others originally sponsored the bill with him, but eventually 87 other Republicans ended up as cosponsors.
In 2013, the bill had a total of 39 Republican cosponsors and in 2015, it had 53. King’s most recent effort to push the bill in 2017 had a total of 48 Republican cosponsors.
King has also pushed for various other hardline immigration legislation. He has repeatedly introduced the English Language Unity Act in each Congress since 2003.
The bill seeks to establish English “as the official language” of the US and “declares that all citizens should be able to read and understand generally the English language text of U.S. laws.”
The bill includes proposals for the Department of Homeland Security to test the English language ability of naturalization candidates with exceptions only for those seeking asylum or other “extraordinary circumstances.” The bill has never passed.
King has also expressed his opposition in Congress to court rulings against Trump’s Muslim ban in a 2017 resolution.
The resolution “expresses the sense of the House of Representatives” that a federal judge ignored the Constitution by issuing a temporary restraining order against the Muslim ban. The resolution was referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and didn’t pass.
His legislative agenda often echoes his inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric online and in speeches and interviews.
In 2017, he tweeted, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” He has associated himself with the notoriously far-right and anti-Muslim Dutch politician Geert Wilders, once tweeting a photo of himself with Wilders, saying, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.”
In 2013, he described immigrant children who came to the US illegally but were allowed to stay due to the DREAM Act as having “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
He also blamed Obama for the “cultural suicide” of the US, at one pointing saying Obama was filling the US with terrorists as he had a “different idea” of what America should be. He once said he didn’t want Somali Muslims working in Iowa’s meatpacking plants and has called for a “strict ideological test of immigrants.”
While most Republicans have long tolerated King’s racist rhetoric, the head of the House Republicans’ campaign committee condemned King on Tuesday. Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers tweeted, “Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”
Several corporations have now vowed to end their campaign contributions to King in light of his inflammatory comments and views.
Responding to the outcry, King blamed the media, saying the actions against him were “orchestrated by nasty, desperate, and dishonest fake news.”
A spokesperson for King didn’t immediately return a request for comment.