Arizona is once again making headlines with another immigration bill that could deny citizenship to children born of undocumented parents. Last week, State Republican legislator John Kavanagh filed an immigration bill that would challenge the right of children born in the state to illegal immigrants or other non-citizens to benefit from birthright citizenship, a right that is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
Republicans introduced bills in the Arizona legislature in order to provoke a Supreme Court review that "can end the controversy over the true meaning of the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause." Kavanagh also stated that this bill was created "to deny citizenship to any child born of parents who are not citizens of the United States, be they illegal aliens, or foreigners on business or for tourist purposes." This new bill comes on the heels of Arizona passing the nation's toughest immigration law and is already sparking controversy for potentially denying the rights of children, who through no fault of their own, were born in the U.S. to non-citizen parents.
By Miami Immigration Lawyer Antonio Revilla
Arizona's proposal to deny citizenship of children born to parents that are not citizens of the U.S. is a clear violation of the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment states in pertinent part that "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." This means that any person born in the U.S. that is subject to its jurisdiction is a citizen of the U.S. By operation of law, this would exclude only children of diplomats since diplomats are not necessarily subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S.
Arizona's politicians erroneously rely on early Supreme Court cases such as the Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) and Elk v. Wilkins (1884) as their basis for proposing to ban birthright citizenship. The reliance on these cases is misplaced. The Slaughterhouse cases were civil rights cases dealing with the issue of whether states could limit the privileges and immunities of state citizens as opposed to U.S. citizens. The Supreme Court ruled that the states could limit certain state's rights of state citizens, but could not affect the federal rights of U.S. citizens. The Slaughterhouse cases did not disturb the birthright citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment.
The Elk v. Wilkins case addressed the issue of birthright citizenship as applied to Indians born in Indian territories that at the time in American History were considered foreign states. The Supreme Court at the time considered such Indians, absent a U.S. Treaty, to be subject to the jurisdiction of their tribes and territories which were considered foreign states. Indians born in their foreign states at the time were considered to be aliens much like anyone else from a foreign country or jurisdiction. Once again, it is misplaced to rely on this case to ban birthright citizenship since the Indians were at the time generally considered to be aliens just like anyone else born outside the jurisdiction of the U.S.
The insidious design of this proposal is actually blatant on various levels. It plays on American's misplaced fears of immigrants. The end result would be to reduce the Hispanic vote in America since it is no surprise that the majority of immigrants in the U.S. are Hispanic. This could potentially strengthen conservative political power.
Millions of children born in the U.S. would not be considered citizens with the right to vote, yet they would be subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. for taxation purposes and the application of state and federal laws.
This proposal is un-American and is an example of a sad, but growing trend, of certain politicians creating divisiveness through the spread of xenophobia and the resurrection of jingoism. This, of course, is all being done for political gain by using immigrants as scapegoats.