Ariz. Birthright Immigration Bill to be Reintroduced

An Arizona lawmaker plans to reintroduce a state bill that would deny citizenship to the "anchor babies" of illegal immigrants after the bill stalled in a Senate committee on Tuesday.

State Sen. Ron Gould (R) said he plans to reintroduce two Arizona bills disqualifying the children of illegal immigrants from being legal citizens of the state and the United States to a committee next week for a vote. Gould cancelled the vote originally slated for Tuesday.

The two bills introduced by Republicans provide law enforcement tools for immigration laws and reduce state costs related to illegal immigrants. One proposed bill would define Arizona citizenship - and by default U.S. citizenship - as requiring at least one parent to prove he/she is a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident.

The other bill would set up a system under which birth certificates would note whether the birth parents could prove citizenship. Neighboring states, according to the bill, would agree to honor each other's notations.

Gould explained his decision to move the vote by saying that the new vote will allow voters to know which lawmakers supported and opposed the measure.

The Arizona birthright citizenship proposal is controversial because it would change the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The proposed legislation was subjected to a lengthy discussion among visitors and Senate committee members who peppered the bill's supporters with questions.

John Eastman, a Chapman University law professor, argued for more than an hour that there is no legal basis for the current practice of giving citizenship to all children based on the location of their birth.

Eastman said passing the two measures proposed by Gould would finally give the nation's high court a chance to squarely address the scope of the 14th Amendment.

Sen. Adam Driggs (R) pointed out that the Arizona citizenship proposal 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?"

Several children attended the Senate Judiciary Committee to express their displeasure with the proposal. Twelve-year-old Heide Portugal's parents are not U.S. citizens. She told committee members if a measure like this had been in effect when she was born she would have been denied her citizenship.

After over three hours of testimonies, Gould pulled the proposals and vowed to reintroduce them in a friendly committee.

The faith community has also expressed concern over the birthright citizenship legislation. In an open letter, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service expressed opposition to such birthright immigration bills, saying that they would offer punitive treatment to undocumented immigrants and their young children.

"For people of faith committed to loving the sojourners in their congregations and communities as God instructs, it is devastating to see immigrants and their children placed at further risk," Jeffrey Hawks, LIRS assistant director for education and outreach, wrote in the January open letter.

Other states are proposing similar bills. Georgia filed legislation similar to Arizona's 2010 Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act in January. The Act required state and local law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of any individual they "reasonably suspect" of being in the United States illegally.

President Barack Obama stepped in last year, blocking some of the Arizona bill's provisions in federal court.

The new vote on Gould's bills is set to occur on Monday. It is unclear which committee will hear the two bills.

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