At a hearing about a Tennessee state health insurance program Tuesday, a state lawmaker compared children born to undocumented immigrants to multiplying rats.
Tennessee state Rep. Curry Todd (R) wanted to know if the Cover Kids health-insurance program required "proof that you are here legally before you can get assistance."
"I am talking about the adults," he added.
The Cover Kids program administrator replied that the program only offers assistance to unborn children. "According to the federal government, we cannot ask for immigration documents, or verify that information, because we are providing coverage to the unborn — the unborn child will be classified as a U.S. citizen," she said.
"Under the guidance that was provided to states, under the previous administration, there is a technical guidance letter that states that for covering the unborn child, we are not permitted to determine citizenship, because the child, once born, is a U.S. citizen," another official said.
"Well, they can go out there like rats and multiply, then, I guess," Todd replied.
The Associated Press reported that "no other lawmakers on the state Fiscal Review Committee responded to the remarks."
"I was actually wrong, and I admit when I'm wrong," Todd told AP.
Todd added that he should have said "anchor babies" instead of rats. Many also find the term "anchor babies" to be offensive.
The Collierville Republican said something must be done to protect Tennessee taxpayers.
Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition Stephen Fotopulos called Todd's remarks "dehumanizing."
The liberal blog Think Progress noted that 130 Republicans in Congress want to end the constitutional guarantee on birthright citizenship.