How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

No hearing on birthright citizenship bill, but some good reads anyway

Photo by johnwilliamsphd/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Plans for a hearing today on an Arizona senate bill whose proponents hope to deny birthright citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants were temporarily put off until next week, with legislators giving priority to a tax-cut bill.

Perhaps to coincide with the hearing that didn't take place, several news outlets today featured pieces on birthright citizenship and the 14th Amendment, which as now interpreted guarantees it as a constitutional right. Here are a few of today's related reads:

CNN had a couple of essays, one written by Sen. David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana who recently introduced a federal anti-birthright citizenship bill. He wrote:

I don't believe that the 14th Amendment to our Constitution grants birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. In fact, all we have to do is use history as our guide. It reminds us that this amendment was specifically designed to address the horrible injustice of slavery -- not to grant citizenship to children of people living in our country illegally.

His essay was countered on the CNN site by a piece from author and history professor Linda K. Kerber, who wrote:
The Reconstruction Congress knew that birthright citizenship ensures only one class of citizens, and that virtually all inhabitants would, generation after generation, owe their allegiance to the nation.

Early in the debate on the 14th, Sen. Edgar Cowan of Pennsylvania asked skeptically whether "it will not have the effect of naturalizing the children of Chinese and Gypsies born in this country?" Sen. Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, who played a leading role in shaping the amendments, responded: "Undoubtedly ... the child of an Asiatic is just as much a citizen as the child of a European."


And in the Huffington Post, an essay from Rep. Michael Honda, a Democrat who represents California's 15th Congressional District, argued in favor of birthright citizenship:
Denying citizenship to persons born in the United States who do not meet this new Republican interpretation would produce nearly 340,000 stateless persons each year and lead to a bureaucratic nightmare. Parents would scramble to prove their children's status, enforcement agencies could patrol maternity wards, and lawyers would angle to argue the cases of thousands of newborns. These implications are hardly in line with the Republican ideology of having a limited and smaller government.

A number of anti-birthright citizenship bills have been introduced at the federal level and in several states recently, including in both houses of Arizona's legislature. The Arizona bills are based on model legislation that involves defining who is a citizen of the state, and differentiating between children of undocumented immigrants and other infants on state-issued birth certificates; the goal of proponents is to force a judicial reinterpretation of the 14th Amendment.

The state Senate bill's sponsor, Sen. Ron Gould, pulled it from Arizona's Senate Judiciary Committee without a vote after it failed to gain enough support during a hearing last week; this time it will go before the state Senate Appropriations Committee, who proponents believe will be friendlier to the proposal.

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