Arizona to End Birthright Citizenship?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 08, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Arizona just can't stay out of the headlines these days. The Grand Canyon State has been at the forefront of the immigration debate in the past few years. First with its labor policies and more recently with S.B. 1070. Now the state has set its sights on the 14th Amendment and the so-called "anchor-baby" clause.

The state legislature has begun hearings on two proposals, known as the Arizona birthright citizenship laws. The first proposal seeks to deny citizenship to children who are not born to a United States citizen, reports CNN.

The second seeks to create a two-tiered birth certificate system: "citizens" would receive the normal Arizona birth certificate while all others would receive a different document.

The 14th Amendment states the following:

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.

Since its enactment, this clause has always been interpreted as a grant of citizenship to any person born in the United States regardless of their parentage. Arizona's law specifically considers parentage, denying citizenship to those who would otherwise be citizens under the 14th Amendment. A law that denies a citizen her constitutional rights is de facto unconstitutional, regardless of which governmental entity passes it.

The Arizona birthright citizenship proposals also probably run afoul of another clause of the 14th Amendment--the Equal Protection Clause. Under this clause, states must treat all citizens under their jurisdiction equally. Arizona's two-tiered birth certificate system does just the opposite.

Not only does the birth certificate proposal discriminate by creating two classes of citizenship based on parents' citizenship status, it runs afoul of previous case law. The Supreme Court has already determined that states can't discriminate against the children of illegal aliens.

The interesting thing about the Arizona birthright citizenship proposals is that the representative who introduced the bills knows they're unconstitutional. Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, who filed the proposals, only did so with the goal of getting the issue into the courts, according to NPR.

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