Arizona is expected to set off another seismic immigration wave on Thursday, when both chambers of its legislature expect to hear the introduction of bills denying citizenship to U.S.-born babies of undocumented immigrants.
Republican State Sen. Ron Gould said he and Republican State Rep. John Kavanagh agreed on a day for each to introduce the legislation, but Gould said that timetables for consideration of the bills by the separate chambers will diverge at that point.
Arizona's legislation would define a U.S. citizen as someone who has been naturalized, or someone born in this country who has at least one parent who has no allegiance to a foreign country.
Gould is the Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman and he said he expects the committee will consider his bill in early February. Meanwhile, Kavanagh indicated that House action on his bill might wait for approval of a new state budget.
Sen. Russell Pearce, the architect of Arizona’s well-known, controversial immigration measure, SB 1070 -- which, among other things, allows police to enforce immigration laws -- is a sponsor of the citizenship legislation.
Last fall, Pearce said that the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which addresses citizenship, was not meant to apply to the children of people who live in the United States illegally.
“This is a battle of epic proportions,” Pearce, Republican, said at a press conference in Arizona. "We’ve allowed the hijacking of the 14th Amendment.”
Arizona has become the leader in the movement by states to take immigration into their own hands as their frustration mounts over the federal government’s failure to revamp the nation’s broken immigration system.
Legislators in numerous states this year have introduced, or announced plans to introduce, measures modeled on Arizona’s SB 1070, which is facing court challenges. And so, anything Arizona does on immigration is being closely followed nationwide.
Last year, Pearce gave new momentum to the contentious – but not new -- issue of birthright citizenship when he said it was next in his quest to crack down on illegal immigration.
Earlier this month, a group of state legislators known as the State Legislators for Legal Immigration gathered in Washington D.C. to unveil model legislation that denies birthright citizenship to the babies of illegal immigrants. They said that lawmakers in as many as 14 states plan to introduce bills on the matter this year.
One of the proposals SLLI crafted would allow a state to issue two kinds of birth certificates – one to babies of people legally in the United States, and a different one to babies of illegal immigrants.
The SLLI maintains that automatic citizenship for anyone born here – without regard to whether their parents are breaking the law by being here -- fuels illegal immigration.
The founder of the group, Pennsylvania State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican, said: “We need to end the incentive that encourages illegals to cross our border.”
LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a Hispanic organization that has won landmark civil rights, has vowed to sue any state that passes such a law. LatinoJustice, like others who oppose birthright citizenship measures, say it is unconstitutional and unlikely to hold up in court.
Cesar Perales, the president of LatinoJustice, said that though the 14th amendment originally was ratified after the Civil War to guarantee the children of former slaves U.S. citizenship and all its protections, courts subsequently have declared that the amendment applies to babies of Native Americans and to babies of Chinese guest workers.
“States don’t give people citizenship,” Perales said in an interview earlier this month, “it’s the federal government’s role. This is a political stunt, with invented arguments that are not based on law, and it smacks of racism.”
A Pew Hispanic Research analysis last year found that that nearly four out of five – or 79 percent -- of the 5.1 million children, ages 18 and younger, of unauthorized immigrants were born in this country.
This story contains material from The Associated Press.