PHOENIX — Emboldened by passage of the nation's toughest law against illegal immigration, the Arizona politician who sponsored the measure now wants to deny U.S. citizenship to children born in the United States to undocumented parents.
Legal scholars laugh out loud at Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce's proposal and warn that it would be blatantly unconstitutional, since the 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the U.S.
But Pearce brushes aside such concerns. And given the charged political atmosphere in Arizona, and public anger over what many regard as a failure by the federal government to secure the border, some politicians think the idea has a chance of passage.
"I think the time is right," said state Rep. John Kavanagh, a Republican from suburban Phoenix who is chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. "Federal inaction is unacceptable, so the states have to start the process."
Earlier this year, the Legislature set off a storm of protests around the country when it passed a law that directs police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. The law also makes it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant. The measure, which takes effect July 29 unless blocked in court, has inflamed the national debate over immigration.
An estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants were living in the U.S. as of January 2009, according to the Homeland Security Department. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that as of 2008, there were 3.8 million illegal immigrants in this country whose children are U.S. citizens.