How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Witness testimony from today's Senate hearing on SB 1070

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A protester holds a union anti-SB 1070 sign, May 1, 2010

A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning on the constitutionality of Arizona's SB 1070 and state immigration laws in general brought some heated testimony, with witnesses that included former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the controversial anti-illegal immigration law's chief sponsor.

Oral arguments are set for tomorrow as the U.S. Supreme Court takes on Arizona v. United States, an appeal brought by Arizona that challenges the federal government's assertion that immigration enforcement is the province of federal officials, and that SB 1070 is therefore preempted by federal immigration law. The Senate hearing today was much less relevant in the larger sense than whatever the high court will decide, but the arguments were interesting. Here are some highlights from today's witness testimony.

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The legacy of SB 1070: Three ways it changed the immigration landscape

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Anti-SB 1070 protesters in downtown Phoenix on the day the law took effect, July 29, 2010

Two years ago today, Arizona's Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill known as SB 1070. Already, the strict anti-illegal immigration bill had caused heated debate in and out of Arizona, most notably because it would make it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration documents in the state - and because it would empower local police to check for immigration status if they had “reasonable suspicion” that someone was in the country illegally.

Back then, I wrote about the broad implications that SB 1070 would likely have. Would there be a political ripple effect, with other states considering similar laws? Would some immigrants decide they'd had enough and leave the state? Would it change the political discourse on immigration, with politicians basing their platforms on strict policies? And if tested in court, would it hold up?

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Top five immigration stories of 2011, #4: Birthright citizenship

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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.

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Five takes on why Russell Pearce went down in Arizona, and what it means

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One could probably fill a small library by now with the many analyses of Arizona senate president Russell Pearce's defeat Tuesday in a historic recall election, Arizona's first recall of a state legislator.

There are different takes on why Pearce, best known for sponsoring last year's game-changing SB 1070 state anti-illegal immigration law, was ousted from his seat. He was a strident and popular voice within the immigration-restriction lobby, promoting not only a law that empowered local police to check for immigration status (a provision of SB 1070 that remains blocked), but pushing legislation earlier this year that would have kept U.S.-born children of undocumented parents from obtaining automatic U.S. citizenship. And in spite of being partly hung up in court, SB 1070 has inspired a series of imitations, including similar new laws Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia.

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Is the Russell Pearce recall election a referendum on Arizona's immigration politics?

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Russell Pearce, the Republican Arizona state senate president whose SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law continues to inspire similarly strict immigration laws in other states, could lose his seat to a recall Tuesday. He'll be running against a challenger, fellow Republican Jerry Lewis, in the state's first-ever recall election involving a state lawmaker.

And while Pearce's hardline stance on immigration isn't the sole basis of the effort to oust him, the outcome of tomorrow's election is being regarded by many as a popular vote on his controversial immigration politics - and on the public image of Arizona that SB 1070 and other proposed immigration crackdowns there since have helped create.

As the polls prepare to open, several news analyses have examined what the recall vote means in terms of Pearce's and Arizona's immigration policies and politics:

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