Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's call to end birthright citizenship in the United States could revive a similar proposal in Congress that has never gained traction despite past support from top leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
"I don't have any doubt that the immigration statement that Trump put out is going to help provide momentum for a number of different pieces of immigration enforcement legislation, and especially birthright citizenship," Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told the Washington Examiner.
King is the sponsor of a House bill that would restrict automatic birthright citizenship, but his legislation has stalled, as has a companion measure in the Senate. But the bill could get a boost from Trump, who released an immigration reform plan that also calls for ending the policy.
"End birthright citizenship," Trump wrote in his proposal. "This remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration."
Trump's idea is hardly new to politics or Congress, where lawmakers have sponsored various bills over the years to curb or end the practice of granting citizenship to children born here to illegal immigrants and other non-citizens.
Watchdog groups say up to 400,000 children are born in the United States to illegal immigrants each year. If they are born on U.S. soil, they are entitled to citizenship under an interpretation of the 14th Amendment. Children of non-citizens who are born here can petition for legal status for their parents when they turn 21, which critics of the law say provides incentive for people to try to cross illegally into the United States in order to give birth.
Reid was once among the supporters of ending birthright citizenship, and sponsored legislation in 1993 that would end the practice.
"If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn't enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant?" Reid said in a Senate floor speech at the time. "No sane country would do that, right?"
Both Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have also shown support, signaling in 2010 they were willing to consider a proposal to change birthright citizenship. "I think it's worth considering," Boehner said on "Meet the Press" in 2010.
Reid has since reversed his position and no longer supports making changes to the law, as Democrats have focused on courting the support of Hispanic voters with legislation that would make it easier for those here illegally to become citizens or legal residents.
Republican leaders, including Boehner and McConnell, have since grown quiet when it comes to ending birthright citizenship. Their silence tracks the Republican party's effort to improve its image with Hispanic voters following the 2012 election, when two-thirds of this critical voting bloc voted for President Obama.
Lawmakers and scholars disagree about whether changing the nation's birthright citizenship policy would require an amendment to the Constitution.
The Vitter and King legislation, for example, would "close a loophole" in the 14th Amendment, "by clarifying that birthright citizenship is only given to the children of U.S. citizens and legal resident aliens."
But others, particularly critics of the proposal, say the Constitution would have to be amended, which would require the support of two-thirds of both the House and Senate, as well as ratification by two-thirds of all state legislatures.
"Congress could without a doubt clarify the scope of the 14th Amendment through legislation," Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration rates.
The two bills calling for an end to birthright citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants, meanwhile, have stalled in the House and Senate, even though both chambers are run by Republicans.
The legislation, sponsored by King and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., respectively, would award citizenship only to children who have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident or member of the U.S. military.
King's bill was featured at a hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security but "there are no plans to mark up the bill at this time," an top committee aide told the Examiner.
Vitter's legislation has seen no action in the Senate after his unsuccessful attempt in April to attach the proposal to an anti-human trafficking bill.
"He'll continue looking for opportunities to move the legislation as an amendment or a standalone," Vitter spokesman Luke Bolar told the Examiner.
King said it could become difficult for Republican leaders to ignore the legislation now that it is part of the campaign platform proposed by Trump, the leading GOP candidate.
"I'm glad Donald Trump has set this up on the table and now the American public can have an open discussion," King said. "Sometimes the agenda in Congress is affected by the public discourse. And so this is the time."