In Arizona, where anti-immigration fever appears to be burning hotter among hardline Republicans than the Sonora Desert in August, the state legislature is considering yet another bill targeting illegal immigrants. This one is designed to deny citizenship to the children of illegal aliens. But its purpose reaches beyond state borders.
The 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."
It was adopted in 1868 after the U.S. Civil War to ensure citizenship for former African-American slaves.
The immediate aim of the [Arizona] legislation "is to trigger ... a Supreme Court review of the phrase 'subject to the jurisdiction thereof' in the 14th amendment," [Arizona state representative] Kavanagh told Reuters in a telephone interview.
It ultimately seeks "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," he added.
This bill is being pushed by Kris Kobach, the "anti-immigration architect", who served as chief immigration advisor in the Justice Department during John Ashcroft's tenure.
In the absence of congressional action, Kobach is after what he says is the best alternative: ÒPeople often see federal immigration policy as a dichotomy between amnesty and deportation. But the most rational approach is a third one: you ratchet up the enforcement so that people make their own decisions to start following the law.Ó In other words, take away the reasons people come to America illegallyÑeducation, work, housing, and, yes, citizenship for their kidsÑand, Kobach says, they will Òself-deport.Ó
This isn't just happening in Arizona. Other states where Republicans hold majorities in state government are considering similar bills, but some are finding that it's not as easy, economically beneficial or practical as they thought.
In Indiana, a similar bill has been introduced; along with targeting suspected immigrants for status checks, it requires the use of the English language in state business, eliminating the current use of Spanish as well. It would also shut down businesses that hired illegal immigrants.
In Florida, a similar proposal has been scaled back, so that status checks on legal citizenship could only be done if the person in question is being investigated for criminal wrongdoing. However, Florida's businesses are lobbying against the bill, citing damage to the state's tourist industry and business climate. Quoting from the second link:
...During a special Senate committee meeting in Tallahassee on Monday, representatives from the Florida Chamber of Commerce shared a report examining the impact of immigration on the state's economy.
Among the key points:
Immigration boosts productivity, improves the economy and has a small positive impact on the wages of native-born workers.
Despite the perception that the United States is being overwhelmed by immigrants, the inflow of legal and illegal immigrants "is well within historical norms," data shows.
Though unauthorized immigrants cost the state money in terms of education and criminal justice, many studies demonstrate a net positive impact on the economy and tax revenues.
"The immigrants that come to the United States come to work," said Dale Brill, president of the Florida Chamber Foundation and co-author of the report.
The numbers tend to ebb and flow with the economy. He pointed to research that shows the 10 states with the highest concentration of immigrants between 1960 and 1990 had a median unemployment rate that was lower than the 10 states with the fewest immigrants....
In Kentucky, questions arise as to where illegal immigrants would be jailed, since the state has approximately 30,000 or more illegal immigrants and an estimated 250 empty spaces in jails.
In Virginia, the more conservative portions of the Commonwealth are taking aim at Arlington County to prevent local jurisdictions from restricting enforcement of the entire federal immigration law. Arlington County, where I used to work, is multi-ethnic, multilingual and multicultural. Business is conducted at the county level in more than 70 languages; people who worked in the county office building and were fluent in more than one language might be called to help with translation in court or in another office in the building, if necessary. It's been a while since I worked there, but I have not heard that that had changed.
...The bill dealing with citizenship seeks to require that a child born in the U.S. is a citizen only if at least one parent is a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant. It would create a compact with other states to issue different birth certificates for those who are citizens and those who are not. Such compacts would have to be approved by Congress, but do not require the president's signature...
Much of the proposed South Dakota legislation appears to have been sparked by the murder convictions of two illegal immigrants there last year; the state is estimated to have about 2,000 illegal immigrants.
In Tennessee, state legislators approved an Arizona-style bill; however, they put the cost of some enforcement on businesses, which would be required to conduct citizenship status checks on employees, to reduce government spending.
I'm a bit surprised by the emphasis on requiring employers to verify citizenship for their employees -- because they've been doing that for more than 20 years. This was mentioned, back when it was started, as a barrier to getting able-bodied and mentally fit homeless people off the streets, because one of the first things that gets stolen when someone is homeless is personal ID, and it takes money to replace it. Are lawmakers now thinking that employers shouldn't just look at someone's birth certificate, green card or passport, but conduct a detailed analysis of the paperwork to determine if it's genuine?
In Mississippi, city and county officials are concerned the new law might open them up to expensive lawsuits by citizens who think they're not enforcing the law sufficiently. And an editorial in the Clarion-Ledger calls the bill 'election pandering'. Quoting the editorial:
...Illegal immigration is a complex and difficult issue. It is a national issue to which the president and Congress should seek a solution. It is not a major issue for Mississippi nor one in which the Mississippi Legislature should be getting involved.
It is an issue that clearly is popular with some voters. That is why the Senate passed it and most likely why the House allowed representatives to record a "yes" vote.
But a state immigration enforcement bill is bad policy. It would increase costs to local governments and, even worse, could lead to profiling and harassment of American citizens.
Immigration reform is a job for members of Congress, not the Mississippi Legislature.
The Arizona law this one is modeled after is being challenged and should be overturned. It is as un-American as any illegal immigrant could ever be.
Mississippi legislators shouldn't be wasting time with such political pandering.
*posted on her behalf by Doctor Science, while the ObiWiTariat tries to evade offspring, infectious diseases, and this week's meteorological armageddon long enough to get her a login code.