Arizona’s Next Immigration Battle
It could be over the 14th Amendment and “birthright citizenship,” says the senator who introduced the Grand Canyon State’s controversial enforcement law.
By Russell Pearce
When the open-borders lobby runs out of excuses for amnesty, their final resort is to “do it for the children.” Last year Nancy Pelosi told a crowd in San Francisco that “Our future is about our children” and “Taking parents from their children … that’s un-American.”
When the speaker of the House considers enforcing our immigration laws “un-American,” it becomes the constitutional duty of the States to stand against illegal immigration. This is why I introduced SB 1070 into the Arizona legislature, which has prompted a much needed national debate about immigration.
Sure enough, we’ve heard the same complaints about separating families. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) put together a congressional panel against SB 1070. He trotted out ten-year-old Catherine Figueroa, whose illegal alien parents had stolen identities of American citizens and were detained. She sobbed lines that no doubt were scripted by her handlers: “Please help us, children don’t know what to do without their parents.”
I truly sympathize with Catherine, but her law-breaking parents are the ones responsible for her situation. SB 1070 and all other immigration laws do not split up families. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer very sensibly pointed out that there is nothing stopping the children from going back with their parents to their nation of origin.
But the truth is that these people do not care about reuniting families. They simply use children like Catherine for cheap political gain.
She is not the first. A few years ago, the poster child and poster mother for breaking immigration law under the guise of not “separating families” was Elvira Arellano and her son Saul. Elvira, who had been deported in 1997, broke back into the country and obtained a fraudulent Social Security number. In 2002, she was arrested for Social Security fraud, but due to our lax immigration courts, she was released and wasn’t ordered to see an immigration judge until 2006.
With these facts, most Americans would see this as yet another example of how we fail to enforce our laws. But Elvira had an illegitimate son with an unknown father in 1999. Under a misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment, Saul became a U.S. citizen.
Instead of going to court, Elvira holed herself up in Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago — which proclaimed iself a “sanctuary” — and stayed there for a year. Meanwhile, Saul traveled to Mexico where he spoke before the Mexican Congress to attack our laws. Eventually, Elvira sneaked out and was detained and deported.
She then started a group called La Familia Latina Unida (United Latino Family) in Mexico. But instead of bringing her son with her, pro-illegal-alien activists have given him legal guardianship, and they parade him across the country away from his mother.
This would not be a problem if we ended our absurd practice of giving birthright citizenship to the children of illegal aliens.
The 14th Amendment 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.” This clause was added specifically for the purpose of ensuring that the children of freed slaves would receive American citizenship.
The drafters of this amendment made it very clear that this was not intended for illegal aliens.
One of the amendment’s proponents, Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan, stated that the Citizenship Clause
will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, explained that:
The provision is, that ‘all persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.’ That means ‘subject to the complete jurisdiction thereof.’ … What do we mean by ‘subject to the jurisdiction of the United States?’ Not owing allegiance to anybody else. That is what it means.
The fact that illegal aliens come here in spite of our laws and fly Mexican flags in protest is a pretty sure sign that they do not owe sole allegiance to this country and should not be covered by the 14th Amendment for the purpose of citizenship.
In 1898, the Supreme Court ruled that the Citizenship Clause applied to children of legal immigrants awaiting U.S. citizenship. The court has not, however, ruled that the 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship for everyone. In fact, in the case Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia referred to Taliban fighter Yaser Esam Hamdi — who was born here while his father was visiting on a temporary visa and then spent the rest of his life in Saudi Arabia — as a “presumed U.S. citizen,” acknowledging that the issue was open to debate.
The decision to grant citizenship to the children of illegal aliens is just another arbitrary government policy that has huge costs to the American people. U.S. citizen children are eligible for dozens of welfare programs that strain state and federal budgets. It becomes incredibly difficult to deport the illegal alien parents of U.S.-born children. Then when the children grow up they can sponsor their family members who are here illegally. This is why many refer to them as “anchor babies.”
The American people overwhelmingly oppose this. According a Rasmussen poll earlier this month, 58 percent of Americans do not believe the children of illegal aliens should receive U.S. citizenship, while only 33 percent believe they should.
Neither Congress nor the Obama administration is willing to act to prevent our Constitution from being perverted to reward illegal aliens. For the same reason I proposed SB 1070, I believe this the next step for Arizona to take up in the fight against illegal immigration.
Ending birthright citizenship does not punish children, but continuing the practice rewards lawbreakers.
Sen. Russell Pearce represents Arizona’s 18th Legislative District.