Last month, Right Wing Watch looked at the historical revisionism, lack of legal logic, and indifference to practical results endemic in the movement to change the Constitution’s definition of citizenship. Following last week’s defeat of a law challenging constitutional citizenship in the Arizona senate, the Arizona Republic took takes an extensive look at the arguments for and against Constitutional citizenship. Their analysis of the pragmatic pros and cons is telling. While denying citizenship to American-born children of undocumented immigrants might save some money on social programs in the short term, the paper reports, the long-term costs of creating a huge American-born undocumented underclass—with up to 400,000 new children each year—could be huge. In addition, implementing a system to discriminate against children based on the citizenship status of their parents would be burdensome:
Limiting birthright citizenship could create costs and challenges for the government at various levels while potentially saving money in other areas.
At some level - local, state, federal or even at the hospital - someone would have to determine whether a newborn's parents were legally in the United States before the infant could be processed for a Social Security number.
Regardless of how the process worked, it would require governments to spend money creating and running an agency to verify the citizenship of parents at a time when the public is calling for less government spending and bureaucracy, said Margaret Stock, a retired Army Reserves lieutenant colonel and immigration attorney specializing in military cases.
She is concerned too that limiting birthright citizenship could hurt the nation's armed services because immigrants, and the children of immigrants, have a higher propensity to join the military than other citizens, she said.
Denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants could save taxpayers some money.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the children of undocumented immigrants are more likely to live in poverty and lack health insurance than children of U.S. citizens. As citizens, many of those children qualify for public benefits.
By denying them citizenship, those children would not be eligible for most public-assistance programs, so some of the costs to taxpayers would be less, Van Hook said.
In the long run, however, without citizenship, those children would not be able to work legally and would probably earn less money, pay less in taxes and cost the public in other ways such as emergency medical care, she said.
Two bills proposed by Republican legislators in Arizona that would revoke constitutional citizenship are running into trouble in the State Senate. State Senate President Russell Pearce, a key force behind the state’s draconian SB-1070 anti-immigration law, is leading efforts to deny citizenship to US-born children of undocumented parents, rescinding a right plainly guaranteed by the Constitution's 14th Amendment.
The Arizona Daily Star reports that the bills were unlikely to win the approval of the Judiciary Committee, and now Pearce may bring the legislation to a more sympathetic committee. Children of undocumented parents, immigration activists, and members of the business community spoke out against what they called an unpopular, confusing, and dangerous attempt to undermine the Constitution:
A bid to deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants faltered Monday when proponents could not get the votes of a Senate panel.
After more than three hours of testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, yanked the two measures.
Gould said he lacked the backing of four other members of the Republican-controlled panel, which he chairs. Gould said he will keep trying to secure votes. And Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said, if necessary, he will reassign the proposal to a more friendly committee.
Even before any testimony, Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, said the proposal, based on that idea of Arizona citizenship, raises a host of unanswered questions.
"I don't understand how you become an Arizona citizen if you move to Arizona, what the bureaucratic model would be," he said. "Do you then need to bring your own birth certificate and both of your parents' birth certificates?"
There were also several children who spoke against the bill, including 12-year-old Heide Portugal who said she was born in this country but her parents were not and that a measure like this, had it been in effect, would have denied her citizenship.
The proposals also drew opposition from the business community.
Kevin Sandler, president of Exhibit One, said he worried about the message adopting such a law would send.
Sandler said his firm, which provides audiovisual equipment to courts across the nation, had to lay off six employees after some out-of-state firms boycotted Arizona businesses after lawmakers adopted SB 1070 last year. That measure gives police more power to detain illegal immigrants.
"We've created a toxic environment," he told lawmakers. "Businesses don't want to move here."
He said companies looking to relocate pay attention to the political climate in a state.
"What we've really done is create a not-open-for-business environment here."
Jennifer Allen, executive director of the Border Action Network, said denying citizenship to children born in this country based on a parent's citizenship would create "a permanent underclass" of people in the state.