Birthright citizenship takes center stage in Arizona Senate

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PHOENIX -- Arizona's Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled today to take up SB 1308 and SB 1309, which would deny birth certificates to children born to parents who are not legal U.S. citizens.

Dozens of people, including many children, were protesting at the state Capitol Monday morning. As many as 1,000 people were expected to show up to protest.

Critics say the bills in question, which were introduced by Sen. Russell Pearce of Mesa among others, are not only mean-spirited, but, more importantly, are violations of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants automatic citizenship to anyone born in the U.S.

They say the Constitution trumps any state legislation.

Supporters of the measures say "anchor babies," the term used to describe children born to parents who are illegal immigrants, are a drain on Arizona's already strained social services and resources.

Proponents say the common interpretation of the 14th Amendment has encouraged people to come here to illegally to have their babies, the hope being that having a child who is a legal citizen will make it easier for the rest of the family to become citizens.

The bills would do two things. Under SB 1309, dubbed the birthright citizenship bill, a child born in Arizona would only be considered an "Arizona citizen" if at least one parent is either a legal U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident. Under SB 1308, there would be an agreement between Arizona and other states to create two different kinds of birth certificates -- one for children who meet the new definition of a citizen under SB 1309 and another for those who do not.

Part of the goal of the SB 1308 and SB 1309 is to force the U.S. Supreme Court to re-evaluate the 14th Amendment, which states, “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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…”.

Pearce, Senate president and one of several Republican sponsors of SB 1308 and SB 1309, became the face of the controversial SB 1070, a strict anti-illegal-immigration measure, parts of which are still the subject of numerous legal battles.

The hearing on SB 1308 and SB 1309 was expected to get under way at 2 p.m. If passed, the bills would go to the Senate floor. That could happen as early as next week.