How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Readers' thoughts on the birthright citizenship debate

Photo by johnwilliamsphd/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Over the weekend, NPR featured a post that summarized a series on the birthright citizenship battle that appeared recently on Multi-American. The response from readers since has been phenomenal, with a long string of informed, if impassioned, comments.

The issue of birthright citizenship - and the goal of some legislators to deny it to children of undocumented immigrants - is at the center of the immigration debate at the moment. Last night, two anti-birthright citizenship bills introduced in the Arizona Senate last month were pulled by their sponsor after they failed to win enough support in a committee hearing. But the debate over who should be a U.S. citizen continues to thrive, with a spate of bills pending in Congress and in the states, including an Arizona House bill that has yet to be heard and most recently a state measure proposed in Montana.

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First Arizona anti-birthright citizenship bills falter in state Senate

Photo by Robert Haasch, courtesy of Border Action Network

A protestor outside the Arizona state Capitol in Phoenix yesterday, February 7, 2011

State Senate legislation in Arizona that sought to deny automatic U.S. citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants failed to register enough support in a committee hearing late yesterday, leading its sponsor to pull the two bills, at least for now. From the Arizona Republic:

Based on questioning from committee members, the bills didn't appear to have enough support to move forward.

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, could bring the bills back to the committee later, or they could be referred to a committee that may be more receptive.

"It's going to come back," said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, who opposes the package.


The Arizona Daily Star reported:
Even before any testimony, Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, said the proposal, based on that idea of Arizona citizenship, raises a host of unanswered questions.

"I don't understand how you become an Arizona citizen if you move to Arizona, what the bureaucratic model would be," he said. "Do you then need to bring your own birth certificate and both of your parents' birth certificates?"

There were also several children who spoke against the bill, including 12-year-old Heide Portugal who said she was born in this country but her parents were not and that a measure like this, had it been in effect, would have denied her citizenship.

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As Arizona considers birthright citizenship bill, babies (with parents) march

Screen shot from Facebook page for "One-Thousand Baby Chain"

A hearing in the Arizona state Senate Judiciary Committee on legislation whose proponents hope to end birthright citizenship is expected to last late into the night. In response, critics today staged a protest they call the "One-Thousand Baby Chain" outside the state Capitol in Phoenix.

Arizona's SB 1309 was introduced in January by state Sen. Ron Gould, one of four anti-birthright citizenship bills filed together that intend to redefine who is a citizen of Arizona, and differentiate between the children born to undocumented parents and other children when issuing state birth certificates.

The ultimate goal of proponents is to force a Supreme Court review of the 14th Amendment, which as interpreted provides for automatic citizenship to all born on U.S. soil. The bills are among several anti-birthright citizenship bills filed at the federal and state level last month.

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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.

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From readers, thoughts on the 14th Amendment debate

Photo by Chuck Coker/Flickr (Creative Commons)

U.S. Constitution art, September 2008

Yesterday I wrapped up a weeklong series of posts on the battle over birthright citizenship and the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which as interpreted guarantees citizenship to all those born on U.S. soil.

The series coincided with the introduction of four anti-birthright citizenship bills filed last week in Arizona, intended to force a Supreme Court reinterpretation of the amendment. These were among several related measures filed last month by Republican legislators in Congress and in two other states, all intended to eventually deny citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants.

Along the way, I’ve appreciated a number of interesting comments from Multi-American readers. Some came from readers who appeared to have a legal background (“As any first year law student knows…” one comment began), making for a great discussion on a complicated topic.

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