Washington — The bipartisan First Focus Campaign for Children today sent a letter to Congressman Steve King (R-IA), urging him to withdraw proposed legislation (H.R. 140) denying U.S. citizenship to babies born in the United States unless they can prove one or both of their parents is a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident immigrant, or an immigrant serving in the armed forces. The organization also sent letters to the co-sponsors of the legislation, urging them to withdraw their support.

“This harmful proposal targets the health and well-being of just one group of people: children,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley.

King’s legislation would require parents, including U.S. citizens, to obtain documentation of their immigration status and register their newborns. While immigrants serving in the armed forces or holding permanent resident status are issued documentation of their immigration status, most American citizens do not hold citizenship documentation. Fees and waiting periods for such documentation are not insignificant. For example, the cost of obtaining a U.S. passport – the most widely-accepted form of citizenship documentation – range from $55 to $165 for adult first-time applicants, with a processing time of four to six weeks.

“King’s bill makes parents focus on government paperwork, when they should be focused on raising and protecting the life and well-being of their new child,” said Lesley.

The Campaign for Children letter also cites the potential consequences for children’s health and economic stability. Administrative obstacles created by King’s legislation could delay babies’ access to necessary medical care and other important services that children need for healthy development. The advocacy organization also observes that denying certain children citizenship does not guarantee that the child will be granted citizenship by another country, meaning the proposal would increase the number of stateless and undocumented children in America.

President Barack Obama has committed to advance a national immigration reform proposal this year. The Campaign for Children cited King’s legislation as a step backward for that effort, and it serves as a timely reminder that a comprehensive plan must consider and protect the interests of children.

“We need immigration reform that reflects America’s values, advances America’s interests, and accounts for children’s unique needs. This legislation fails on all counts,” said Lesley.