Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Five key things to know about the birthright citizenship debate




In recent months, the discussion over whether the United States should deny citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants has moved from the fringes of the immigration debate to center stage.

Emboldened by a recession-era political climate and the legislative victory of Arizona's stringent SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law, which has inspired multiple spinoffs even as parts of it remain hung up in court, federal and state conservative legislators have introduced a spate of proposals in the past month aimed at ending the longstanding U.S. policy of automatic citizenship at birth.

These measures seek to change how U.S. citizenship is defined under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, either by amendment or reinterpretation. Here is how Section 1 of the amendment reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Measures proposed far include a Senate resolution that calls for a straightforward constitutional amendment; a House bill that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to limit citizenship at birth; and anti-birthright citizenship bills introduced in three states, including four bills introduced last week in Arizona that seek to define who is a citizen of the state, and differentiate between children of undocumented immigrants and other infants on state-issued birth certificates. The ultimate goal of the state bills' proponents is to force a Supreme Court review of the 14th Amendment.

More bills are expected to be filed, at least at the state level, where a coalition of like-minded legislators is leading a coordinated effort. As the debate heats up, here are a few key things to know:


Some anti-birthright citizenship advocates have suggested that the policy helps drive illegal immigration, providing an incentive for undocumented immigrants to have children on U.S. soil. However, the results of a Pew Hispanic Center study released earlier this week found that more than 90 percent of the undocumented parents who had babies in the United States over a one-year period ending last March had been here several years already.