Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Republican State Lawmakers Mark their Ground over Birthright Citizenship

Several Republican state lawmakers revealed their plans to repeal the right to citizenship for children born on US soil to undocumented immigrants yesterday at a press conference in Washington, DC.

The news conference, in which lawmakers from Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina expressed the hope that their national campaign end with a Supreme Court decision on birthright citizenship, was held on the same day as the opening of the 112th Congress.

The legislators introduced two model pieces of legislation they say will be introduced in 14 states that will bring an end to citizenship rights for children of undocumented immigrants.

“We are here to send a very public message to Congress,” said Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican state representative from Pennsylvania. “We want to bring an end to the illegal alien invasion that is having such a negative impact on our states.”

The opposing camp of Latino and African-American civil rights organizations were very vocal in their opposition yesterday.  A coalition that includes the National Council of La Raza and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has already announced it will file suit against any such measure passed in any state.

“For the first time since the end of the Civil War, these legislators want to pass state laws that would create two tiers of citizens, a modern-day caste system,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Human and Civil Rights, which includes many African-American groups.

Protesters also interrupted the press conference several times holding posters accusing the lawmakers of intolerance and racism and reminding them of the welcoming words for immigrants inscribed at the site of the Statue of Liberty.

One model legislation calls for stripping the citizenship of babies born in the state if both parents are undocumented by creating a new definition of state citizenship, in addition to national citizenship.

In the second one, which is a compact between states, they would agree to issue distinctive birth certificates to babies whose parents could not show legal immigration status. Even immigrants who live in the United States legally on temporary visas would see their newborns denied citizenship.

Calling their efforts the “holy grail” of the immigration debate, Oklahoma State Rep. Randy Terrill, who is also a member of State Legislators for Legal Immigration, accused birthright citizenship of having “created a perverse incentive for foreign nationals to break U.S. law.”

“We believe these laws cannot survive constitutional scrutiny,” said Lucas Guttentag, director of the immigrants’ rights project of the American Civil Liberties Union, another group in the new coalition.

The lawmakers acknowledged such measures wouldn’t immediately have any effect in any state if they should come to pass as a result of lawsuits already being talked about, but they hope it will generate a response from Washington.

The presumed incoming chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, Representative Steve King of Iowa, a Republican, said he plans to introduce a bill to eliminate birthright citizenship for children when both parents were illegal immigrants as soon as the new House members are sworn in.  But he wouldn’t make it his first priority, instead focusing on cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrant laborers.

Some Latino Republicans are distressed by the actions of their colleagues.

“Rather than attacking babies born in the United States and the Constitution, we demand they target our suffering economy,” said Deedee Garcia Blase, a spokeswoman for Somos Republicans, a Texas-based organization of Latino Republicans.

Also attending yesterday’s press conference as part of the anti-birthright delegation was newly elected Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach.  La Plaza has written extensively about the former Bush Administration official and “mastermind” behind the anti-immigrant legislation movement that includes Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 and other similar pieces of legislation in other states.  Last fall, we reported that Kobach has announced his intentions to turn his focus on outlawing birthright citizenship at the state level.

Even if King’s bill should pass the House it would still face a hurdle it is not likely to pass, the Democratic controlled Senate.

“I would have said a year ago that Republicans would not embrace anything so drastic,” said Representative Charlie Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat who is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “But anything is possible now.”

New York Times