Arizona Republicans say they plan to introduce new legislation this fall that, if passed, would block the children of undocumented immigrants from becoming citizens if they were born in the United States.
Arizona is already facing a national boycott by other U.S. states and cities following its introduction of a controversial law, S.B. 1070, signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in April. That law requires police to determine a person’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” they are undocumented.
Both measures are the brainchild of state Sen. Russell Pearce who argues that children born on American soil to non-U.S. citizens should be barred from attaining birth certificates.
Federal law under the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution automatically grants citizenship to any child born in the country regardless of their parents’ legal status.
Speaking to Time magazine last week Pearce said Latino immigrants that end up in the U.S. “is an orchestrated effort by them to come here and have children to gain access to the great welfare state we’ve created.”
Calling children born to immigrant parents “anchor babies,” Pearce adds the 14th amendment has been “hijacked” by undocumented immigrants.
“They use it as a wedge issue,” he says.
Gov. Brewer and other Arizona Republicans have indicated their support for Pearce’s new proposal and his anti-immigrant agenda.
In a recent interview with Tucson ABC affiliate KGUN Brewer said, “It’s illegal to trespass into our country. And people have determined that they want to take that chance. They can take their children back with them.”
However opponents of the proposed legislation say such a move is contrary to the Constitution and the American spirit. And although such a measure would not reach the Arizona Senate floor for months, critics say they are ready to fight it from the start and are not taking any chances.
Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic state representative in Arizona who is a fierce opponent to S.B. 1070 speaking to CNN said, “Unlike [Senate Bill] 1070, it is clear this bill runs immediately afoul of the U.S. Constitution.”
She notes, “While I understand that folks in Arizona and across the country support S.B. 1070, they do so because we have seen no action from the federal government. Unfortunately, the so-called ‘anchor baby’ bill does nothing to solve the real problems facing Arizona.”
Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona told the Daily Caller, “We will definitely challenge if it does get passed. It is clearly unconstitutional, discriminatory and it fuels this anti-immigrant agenda. That really is not what our state needs right now,” she said.
Pearce has proposed similar bills in Arizona twice before, but both attempts were voted down in the state’s House. Pearce is a long-time critic of the modern interpretation of the 14th amendment. He has a whole section on his website in which he argues why the original authors of the amendment never would have extended the right to undocumented immigrants.
Ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War in 1868, the amendment reads, “All persons, born or naturalized in the United Sates, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”
The amendment was drafted in order to secure the citizenship and Constitutional rights of freed slaves and their children.
Previous efforts, including one in the late 19th century challenging the citizenship of the children of Chinese immigrants, have been unsuccessful.
The right of Arizona to attempt to deny U.S. citizenship could ultimately end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It’s blatantly unconstitutional,” said Sinema to the Daily Caller. Sinema, who was a constitutional lawyer before her election to the Arizona House says Pearce’s new proposal won’t pass muster and it’s in direct violation of the 1868 amendment.
“There’s no way this would ever go into effect, and he knows it,” she said.