Sen. David Vitter gave a speech on the Senate floor calling on Congress to end the practice of birthright citizenship, arguingthat "no sane country" would allow it for the children of illegal immigrants.
Vitter ended the remarks Thursday by saying he was actually quoting an old speech by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who now opposes ending birthright citizenship. Reid had slammed Vitter over the issue the previous day.
"This is not my statement. Let me clarify: This is Sen. Harry Reid's statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate," said the Louisiana Republican, who is sponsoring an anti-birthright amendment to a human trafficking bill currently before the Senate. Vitter ended by saying, "Let me just thank Senator Reid for his prior words in strong support of what he yesterday called 'Vitter's stupid amendment.'"
In the early 1990s, Reid was a strong advocate of ending birthright citizenship. In 1993, he introduced theImmigration Stabilization Act, legislation that would have, among other features, denied citizenship to children whose parents were not legally in the U.S. He pushed for the idea again in 1994, writing an op-ed on it for the Los Angeles Times.
In the 1993 speech Vitter quoted, Reid said, "If making it easy to be an illegal alien is not enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again. If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee full access to all public and social services this society provides. And that is a lot of services. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of the babies born at taxpayer expense in county-run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?"
The senator backed away from the position a few years later. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1999 that he was wrong to have called for repeal. "I didn't understand the issue. I'm embarrassed that I made such a proposal."
A Reid staffer forwarded excerpts from a 2006 speech in which the senator called it the "biggest mistake I ever made" and said that atoning for that past mistake was partly why he now advocates for a major overhaul.
This is not the first time that Reid's past support of anti-immigration legislation has been used by his opponents to call him a hypocrite. His 2010 Republican opponent, Sharon Angle, raised it in their Senate race. In an analysis the same year, the Tampa Bay Times' Politifact group rated Reid's stance on birthright citizenship a "full flipflop."