FRANKFORT, Ky.—U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul is stirring it up again, this time by saying he opposes citizenship for children born in the U.S. to parents who are illegal immigrants.
Paul, who a week ago won the GOP primary, told a Russian TV station in a clip circulating on political Web sites Friday that he wants to block citizenship to those children.
"We're the only country I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen," Paul told RT, an English-language station, shortly after his win over GOP establishment candidate Trey Grayson. "And I think that should stop also."
Legislation dubbed the Birthright Citizenship Act was introduced in the House last year seeking to prevent citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants even though the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees citizenship to everyone born in the U.S. More than 90 lawmakers signed on as co-sponsors.
Paul told the TV station that partisan politics may be at play in not stopping illegal immigration.
"I'm not opposed to letting people come in and work and labor in our country," Paul said. "But I think what we should do is we shouldn't provide an easy route to citizenship. A lot of this is about demographics. If you look at new immigrants from Mexico, they register three to one Democrat, so the Democratic Party is for easy citizenship and allowing them to vote. I think we need to address that."
Immigration advocates criticized Paul's stand on Friday as immoral.
"That's a very extremist position," said Manuel Perez-Rocha, a spokesman for the liberal Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies. "It comes at a very bad moment in history because it tends to polarize debate on immigration when it's most needed that both parties come to their senses so they can have serious discussion on the subject. It's immoral. It lacks compassion."
Campaign chairman David Adams said Friday that Paul stands behind his statements.
"Illegal immigration is a real problem in this country," Adams said, "and if we can't talk about this, what can we talk about?"
Rusty Childress, founder of the anti-illegal immigration group United for a Sovereign America, praised Paul for voicing his opinion on the issue.
"He's a brave individual to stand up for what he believes in," he said. "Illegal immigration is a topic like abortion or religion -- it's controversial, and it's really taboo. For a candidate to come out and be so strongly not ignoring the issue is admirable."
Childress said he also believes children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants should not get citizenship.
"It is an incentive, and the role of our government becomes that of an enabler of illegal immigration," Childress said. "We hold just one more carrot out there as incentive to cross the desert and break our immigration laws."
Paul faces Democrat Jack Conway, the state's attorney general, in the November general election.
During the primary campaign, Conway said he would support tough but fair immigration legislation, and he called for securing the border. Campaign manager Jonathan Drobis repeated that position on Friday, saying Conway is talking about real solutions for the problems facing Kentucky while Paul "is speaking in sound bites to Russian television."
The notion of stopping birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants wasn't raised during the primary, which isn't surprising since Kentucky isn't the magnet for illegal immigrants as some other places around the country.
University of Louisville political scientist Laurie Rhodebeck said Paul's position is no political liability in Kentucky where polls show people frown on illegal immigration.
"Clearly, people here seem to be even more in favor of tight control over immigration issues than folks nationwide," Rhodebeck said. "So, if Paul wants, he could take the issue and run with it."
Paul's remarks come after he expressed misgivings about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, suggesting to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow last week that the federal government shouldn't have the power to force restaurants to serve minorities if business owners don't want to.
The Kentucky Senate on Friday adopted a resolution declaring any form of discrimination to be inconsistent with American values. Louisville Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal, who introduced the resolution, called Paul's comments an extreme position that has made Kentucky "a laughing stock."
Associated Press Writer Amanda Lee Myers contributed to this story from Phoenix.