Bills' failure a setback for supporters of ending birthright citizenship - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Bills' failure a setback for supporters of ending birthright citizenship

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Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011 3:46 pm | Updated: 10:45 am, Sun Mar 20, 2011.

Supporters of rolling back birthright citizenship suffered a large setback in what proved to be a bitter fight.

State Senate Bills 1308 and 1309 were defeated on Thursday with votes of 12-18 and 11-19 respectively.

The bills would have worked together to repeal birthright citizenship for children born to parents who are here illegally.

SB 1308 would have created two separate birth certificates - one for a child who was born to a set of parents with at least one legal resident and another class for people who were born to undocumented immigrants.

SB 1309 redefined the requirements for Arizona citizenship. Children would have to be born to at least one parent who is here legally to be counted as an Arizona citizen.

The introduction of these bills was quite controversial and provoked many emotions.

Thursday saw many protestors outside the state Capitol.

One of the men at the Capitol who supported the bills saw birthright citizenship as part of America's allure: If a child is born here, that means he or she is now an American citizen. "I think it is an incentive for people to come here and have as many kids as they can and then hope that maybe, I guess, in the long run that having a lot of children who are U.S. citizens that they will be able to become U.S. citizens," said Phoenix resident Tim Johnson.

Another woman at the Capitol saw this movement as a form of discrimination, as a way to make undocumented immigrants almost less than human.

"Birthright citizenship is a right that belongs to every person who was born here. I support it because if we didn't have it we would create separate classes of people who are stateless, who do not have any civil rights and who would be excluded," said Elizabeth Venable, who was protesting on Thursday.

Others say that is would change the sentiment.

"We are a land that welcomes people and individuals. So to take on a completely new way of relating to people who are different than us changes the attitude and the atmosphere in our country and that is extremely problematic," said Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson.

As passions flared outside the state Capitol, the legislators brought SB 1308 and SB 1309 to the floor.

Despite their failure to pass, the debate will still likely rage on and be brought up again.

Some opposed this idea on the grounds that it was unconstitutional because it stood directly in conflict with the first sentence of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment.

"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," it reads.

This amendment was adopted to reverse the ruling of the 1857 Supreme Court case Dredd Scott v. Sandford.

This decision held that slaves were not citizens of the United States regardless of whether they were born here. The addition of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution made this decision null and void.

"I think the people who adopted that really meant it - because you are born in the United States, you were a citizen," said Paul Bender, a constitutional law professor and former dean at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

The legal dispute occurs over what the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" means.

Those who are against birthright citizenship argue that children of undocumented immigrants aren't citizens because the parents owe allegiance to another nation.

"The basis of the whole thing is what does ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof' mean? We believe it meant that you had sworn allegiance to the United States and that you weren't subject to another [country]," said Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City.

He called the jurisdiction that governs undocumented immigrants "partial jurisdiction."

Everyone has to follow the laws in the United States, but those against birthright citizenship feel that illegal immigrants and their children are not subject to U.S. laws fully because of their undocumented status.

Those who support birthright citizenship though say this language has nothing to do with what other allegiance a child's parents may have.

"[The language] was meant to exclude the children of the diplomats," Bender said.

Diplomats are not bound to U.S. laws, therefore they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. and nor are their children.

Those who were against SB 1308 and 1309 took the measures as an affront to the Constitution.

They also saw it as especially ironic because many who champion the measure claim to be ardent Constitutionalists.

"It is a challenge to the Constitution. And that is coming from the individuals that say they support the Constitution," Aboud said.

Gould acknowledged that this was the actual intent of the laws.

"[The bills] are intended to create legal challenges. The Supreme Court has never ruled on that issue," said Gould.

The Supreme Court did rule on birthright citizenship in the 1898 case United States v. Wong Kim Ark.

The decision held that the government could not deny citizenship to anyone born in the United States.

However, Gould maintains that this case is not relevant because the parents were legal immigrants.

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