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In Arizona, a bid to block citizenship for illegal immigrants' 'anchor babies'

Under the 14th Amendment, babies born in the United States automatically are citizens – even if their parents are illegal immigrants. Lawmakers in Arizona and other states are challenging that.

By Staff writer / January 28, 2011

Jorge Mendez, from Glendale, Ariz., dressed as a baby to play the role of an 'anchor baby' during a press conference at the State Capitol Thursday in Phoenix. Mr. Mendez opposes a bill to deny citizenship to some babies born in Arizona.

Jack Kurtz/The Arizona Republic/AP Photo

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Arizona – already tied up in federal court over its controversial immigration law – has launched another effort regarding illegal immigrants sure to be fought over on constitutional grounds. At issue are what immigration hard-liners call “anchor babies” – children born to illegal immigrants but who automatically are US citizens under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

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Arizona lawmakers this week filed legislation requiring citizens of the state to be US citizens, with the added requirement that each person must have at least one parent who was born in the US or is a naturalized citizen. In other words, babies born in the United States to a father and mother who are both illegal immigrants would not be US citizens.

While Arizona is leading the way, other states are expected to follow – perhaps a dozen or so, according to State Legislators for Legal Immigration, a 40-state coalition founded by Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R). The organization wrote the model legislation introduced in Arizona on Thursday.

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“According to the Fourteenth Amendment, the primary requirements for US citizenship are dependent on total allegiance to America, not mere physical geography,” Representative Metcalfe said at a meeting of state lawmakers and constitutional scholars in Washington earlier this month. “The purpose of this model legislation is to restore the original intent of the Fourteenth Amendment, which is currently being misapplied and is encouraging illegal aliens to cross and cost American taxpayers $113 billion annually, or nearly $1,117 yearly per individual taxpayer.”

Action in the US Senate

Meanwhile, US Sens. David Vitter (R) of Louisiana and Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky this week introduced a resolution calling for an amendment to the Constitution requiring that a person born in this country to illegal immigrant parents does not automatically gain citizenship unless at least one parent is a legal citizen, a legal immigrant, an active member of the armed forces, or a naturalized legal citizen.

“For too long, our nation has seen an influx of illegal aliens entering our country at an escalating rate, and chain migration is a major contributor to this rapid increase – which is only compounded when the children of illegal aliens born in the US are granted automatic citizenship,” said Senator Vitter.

Based on US Census data, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, some 340,000 children were born to illegal immigrants in the United States in 2008.

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