On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Arizona v. United States, Arizona’s challenge to the federal government’s assertion that the state anti-illegal immigration law SB 1070 conflicts with federal law. The justices are weighing four provisions of the law, blocked by a federal judge just before it took effect in July 2010.
These are Section 2(B), which requires police to try to determine the status of people they encounter if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the country illegally and requires them to check the status of those they arrest; Section 3, which makes it a state crime to be without valid immigration papers; Section 5(C), which makes it a state crime to work or seek employment in Arizona without valid work authorization; and Section 6, which empowers local police to arrest someone without a warrant if there is "probable cause" that the person committed a deportable offense.
Photo by Victoria Bernal/Flickr (Creative Commons)
The political battle over birthright citizenship exploded almost a year ago, when a series of states began introducing bills seeking to cut off the children born to undocumented immigrants from automatic U.S. citizenship.
The United States, like most countries in the Americas but unlike many European nations, has had a longstanding practice of jus soli citizenship, meaning citizenship is granted to those born on U.S. soil (jus soli is Latin for "right of the soil). Other nations, such as Germany, abide by versions of jus sanguinis (Latin for “right of blood”) citizenship, which there is granted only to children of citizens and/or legal residents.
The notion of barring the children of undocumented immigrants from receiving U.S. citizenship had long lingered on the more extreme fringes of the immigration restriction lobby. But in the anything-is-possible climate that followed the approval of Arizona's stringent SB 1070 last year, a group of like-minded state legislators banded together and, with the aid of attorneys who worked on SB 1070, created one-size-fits-all model state legislation that would distinguish between babies born to undocumented immigrants and other children when issuing state birth certificates.