Nearly two thirds of Arizonans think children of illegal immigrants should not be entitled to U.S. citizenship just because they were born in this country, a new statewide survey shows.
The findings release Monday by Rasmussen Reports come as state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, is weighing legislation that would forbid the state from issuing birth certificates to a child unless at least one parent could prove citizenship. Mere presence in this country, legal or otherwise, would not qualify.
A similar measure dealing with what are called "anchor babies'' was introduced during the 2008 legislative session by Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, with Pearce signed on as a sponsor. But that proposal never got a hearing.
Since that time, though, Pearce has crafted and engineered passage of the toughest state law aimed at illegal immigrants in the country. At the same time, immigration has become the focal point of Arizona politics.
But the controversy is not limited to Arizona: Rasmussen reports that 58 percent of people nationwide say citizenship should not be conferred on someone solely because of the location of that child's birth.
The question is deeper than simply denying a birth certificate. It also means that the children of illegal immigrants, now entitled to various public benefits, would find them off limits.
Pearce acknowledged that courts have ruled the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed in the wake of the Civil War to provide equal protection under the law, guarantees citizenship to anyone born in this country.
But he said extending that right to babies born of parents in the U.S. illegally is based on a misreading of the amendment.
He notes it says citizenship requires not just birth in the United States but also that the person is "subject to the jurisdiction'' of this country. He said that does not apply to people here illegally.
And Pearce said he believes a federal court, given a fresh chance to look at the issue, would reach the same conclusion.
But Rep. David Lujan, D-Phoenix, said Monday it is Pearce who is misreading the Constitution. Lujan, who is an attorney, said visitors, legal or otherwise, are subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Lujan, however, said the poll results are not surprising.
"I think it's a reflection of people's frustration with the federal government not doing anything when it comes to immigration,'' he said. "Until we can address our immigration issues at the national level, states are going to continue to do these things and people are going to continue to be frustrated.''
Repeated calls Monday to press aides to Gov. Jan Brewer seeking her stance on the issue were not returned.
One possible foe will be the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. The organization opposed the similar plan from several years ago amid concerns about putting these facilities, which actually issue birth certificates, in a law enforcement role and eroding trust with patients.
The telephone survey of 500 likely voters, conducted June 29, has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.