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Cotton proposes ending birthright citizenship, sanctioning ICC

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Republican Arkansas U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is proposing bills which would end birthright citizenship and put new sanctions on the International Criminal Court.

On Wednesday, Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas introduced two bills in the Senate. The first would end birthright citizenship, while the second would put sanctions on the International Criminal Court. The latter was passed by House lawmakers on Tuesday, but faces dim prospects in the majority Democratic Senate.

Birthright Citizenship

Birthright citizenship is the constitutionally-enshrined practice of allowing all people born in the U.S. to be citizens, regardless of whether their parents hold citizenship or live in the county legally.

Cotton said birthright citizenship has contributed to high levels of illegal immigration. The bill is also sponsored by Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio. It's titled “The Constitutional Citizenship Clarification Act.

The bill aims to end the practice by amending the 1952 “Immigration and Nationality Act.” This law, passed during the Truman Administration, was set up to establish immigration quotas.

“There is no constitutional right for illegal aliens to cross the border to gain citizenship for their children,” said Cotton in a statement.

Under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, people born in the United States are automatically citizens, even if their parents are not citizens.

In 2023, Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz put forward a similar bill, the “End Birthright Citizenship Fraud Act of 2023,” which did not make it through the House. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump has talked about ending birthright citizenship on the campaign trail. While president, he said he would end the practice through an executive order which never came into existence.

International Criminal Court

On Wednesday, Cotton introduced a bill to put sanctions on the International Criminal Court, the Netherlands-based tribunal tasked with prosecuting war crimes. The sanctions would require the president to block property interests from the ICC. It's titled “The Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act.” The bill already passed the House on Tuesday by a vote of 247 to 155.

Cotton was joined by several Republican colleagues, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida.

The ICC was set up in the late 90’s to prosecute people who violate human rights on a global scale. The court has been used to prosecute warlords and political leaders accused of war crimes.

In May, ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan put out an arrest warrant application for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three leaders of the terrorist group Hamas. The British prosecutor accused both parties of "crimes against humanity."

He described the events at the Supernova Music Festival in Re’im on October 7, where many civilians were murdered and taken hostage. Khan said the acts committed by Hamas at the event were “part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.”

At the same time, he accused Netanyahu of committing war crimes by starving Palestinian civilians and committing “extermination.” His warrant application described the war in Gaza, saying Netanyahu cut off crucial supplies like food and electricity from the civilian population. Khan contended that these actions may serve to weaken Hamas, but also said they “collectively punish the civilian population of Gaza, whom they perceived as a threat to Israel.”

Cotton thinks Khan has no right to issue a warrant for Netanyahu, saying “the ICC is a kangaroo court that has no authority to target America or Israel.”

He also wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland to ask him to investigate Khan.

In December, Khan visited Israel and Palestine. He said he went to the site of the music festival and talked to families of survivors, saying he saw the "devastating scenes of these attacks and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes.”

He also said he looked at evidence describing ongoing violence in Palestine. Khan said this evidence included “interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses, authenticated video, photo and audio material, satellite imagery and statements from the alleged perpetrator group.”

Cotton did not trust Khan's accounting of events, suggesting he was manipulated by Hamas during his visit.

“Who are the 'witnesses' with whom Khan met,” Cotton asked. “And the source of the 'audio and visual materials' he collected from areas under Hamas control?

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.