Arizona Legislator Pushes to Deny Citizenship

By Marrero, Pilar | National Catholic Reporter, July 9, 2010 | Go to article overview

Arizona Legislator Pushes to Deny Citizenship


Marrero, Pilar, National Catholic Reporter


Russell Pearce, the legislator from Mesa, Ariz., who sponsored the controversial law SB 1070 against undocumented immigrants, has another objective: taking away citizenship from the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants.

"My intention is to push a state law that refuses to acknowledge or to issue birth certificates for children born of illegal aliens, unless one parent is a citizen," Pearce recently wrote in an e-mail to his supporters. "We have to reclaim America."

It wouldn't come as a surprise if he is able to achieve it, although experts question the constitutional survival of the law.

But there's certainly no lack of support for the idea.

A recent Rasmussen survey found that 58 percent of Americans do not agree that the children of undocumented immigrants should receive automatic citizenship. Among Republicans, that number rises to 76 percent. There is no doubt that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer would sign such a law in her state.

But that does not mean that children born in Arizona wouldn't have a nationality: "It's not paper that grants citizenship, but birth on American soil," noted Kathleen Kim, an expert on constitutional law and a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Kim, like other constitutional experts, agreed that a state couldn't override this protection in the country's constitution. Amendment 14 of the U.S. Constitution confers citizenship on the principle of jus soli, or right of soil.

"The reason the amendment exists and is enshrined in the Constitution is to establish equal rights after the abolition of slavery," said Kim, who explained that the amendment was adopted after the Civil War in 1868, reversing a Supreme Court decision 11 years earlier that found blacks, descendants of slaves, could not be citizens even if they were born on U.S. soil.

But the goal of Pearce and his supporters in various anti-immigrant organizations is to force a legal fight that would put the issue in the national spotlight and, presumably, bring about its review before the Supreme Court. …

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