Ariz. Senate Committee Approves Immigration Birthright Bills

An Arizona Senate committee approved two state bills that would deny citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 1308, which direct Arizona's governor to enter into a birth certificate compact with other states, and SB 1309, which defines "Arizona citizenship," on Tuesday by an 8-5 vote mostly along party lines.

SB1308 calls on the governor to form an interstate compact that asks states to issue separate birth certificates for those who are citizens and those who are designated as not citizens.

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State Republicans praised both bills' passage as the next step to stemming the economic and social costs of undocumented workers and residents in Arizona.

An omnibus immigration bill, SB 1611, also passed later on Tuesday. This bill forces employers to verify the citizenship of new employees or face license suspension. Schools will also be required to check the legal status of students and report suspected illegals to law enforcement officers.

Driving as an illegal immigrant will be punishable with a 30-day minimum jail sentence and possible vehicle seizure.

"If you're in the country illegally, you don't have a right to public benefits, period," said Sen. Russell Pearce.

Pearce, who introduced all three immigration bills on Tuesday, is the author of the controversial immigration bill SB 1070 that touched off a nationwide debate last year.

Democrats on Tuesday were very vocal in their opposition to the bills. They said the bills draw attention away from the real problem, the economy.

"This is totally the wrong time for the leader of our Senate to throw our state into another state of chaos," said state Sen. Paula Aboud (D-Tucson) in response to SB 1611.

But Democrats did not have the votes necessary to block the legislation.

Tuesday marked the second committee appearance of the birthright bill. Earlier this month, State Sen. Ron Gould (R- Lake Havasu City) introduced the bill only for it to be met with strong pushback.

During the Feb. 8th hearing, fellow state senators and hearing guests debated Gould and his expert witness, Chapman University law professor John Eastman, for three hours. Several youths also attended the Senate Judiciary Committee to express their displeasure with the proposal.

Senators questioned how the state could create a whole new requirement for citizenship and upend the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Eastman replied that there is no legal basis for the current practice of giving citizenship to all children based on the location of their birth.

Both Eastman and Gould made it known that they welcome the possibility of a U.S. Supreme Court debate over the constitutional amendment as a result of the birthright bill's passage.

After the first hearing, Gould threatened to reintroduce the bill in a friendlier committee. Pearce took up the birthright bill and it was passed in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Now the bills will proceed to the chamber for a floor vote.

States including Indiana, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma and South Dakota are also considering similar immigration proposals.

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