FORT WORTH, Texas -- The roiling national debate over whether to stop granting automatic citizenship for babies born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants reverberates loudly across Tarrant County.
Nearly three-quarters of the 7,000 babies born annually at John Peter Smith Hospital are delivered to the undocumented. The county hospital ranks third among Texas facilities for such births.
The possibility -- no matter how remote -- of losing the birthright granted by the 14th Amendment is alarming to the millions of immigrants in families that have taken advantage of birthright citizenship for more than a century.
"For children who are born here, this is their country; it's all they know," said the Rev. Stephen Jasso, pastor of All Saints Catholic Church in north Fort Worth, who has lobbied for immigrant rights. "They're going to school here, coming to church on Sundays here, learning to be leaders here."
Opponents of birthright citizenship say it contributes to the immigration problem by giving people an incentive to come to the U.S. illegally and makes them more likely to stay once they have children.
Some groups have pushed to end the practice, but elected officials viewed it largely as a fringe movement. Reports about pregnant women paying to travel to the U.S. to give birth and about the threat of "terror babies" have pushed the conversation to the forefront in recent months.
Republicans, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, have called for hearings to evaluate whether changes are possible or needed.
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