Rights groups denounce proposed bills to remove 'birthright citizenship'

Immigrant rights groups in Mexico and the US are up in arms over 'birthright citizenship' legislation to deny citizenship to American-born children of illegal residents.

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    In Mexico, immigrant rights activist and former federal lawmaker José Jacques Medina urged legislators Wednesday to draft a Congressional statement against the “xenophobic, supremacist” campaign to reverse birthright citizenship.
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Immigrant rights groups are voicing strong opposition to legislation being proposed in several US states to deny citizenship to American-born children of illegal immigrants.

In the latest salvo of a heated immigration debate, Rep. Daryle Metcalfe (R) of Pennsylvania said Wednesday that state legislators will introduce bills to eliminate automatic “birthright citizenship.” He was backed by local lawmakers from Oklahoma, Kansas, South Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona, but the group says legislators from a majority of US states are joining the effort.

Latino organizations in the US and activists in Mexico immediately responded, saying the measure would not prevent illegal immigration, but only create a permanent underclass of workers with no civil rights.

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“You’d end up creating a two-caste system in the United States of citizens and noncitizens, [the latter of whom] would be easily exploitable,” says Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington. “It would be like old Europe or India, where you’re born into a family that determines what your caste is.”

'Xenophobic, supremacist' campaign

In Mexico, immigrant rights activist and former federal lawmaker José Jacques Medina urged legislators Wednesday to draft a Congressional statement against the “xenophobic, supremacist” campaign to reverse birthright citizenship.

Rights groups are also planning a demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Mexico City later this month to protest anticitizenship efforts along with other immigration issues.

Meanwhile, the Mexican Embassy in Washington and its consular network will be monitoring the issue “very closely and very carefully,” said Embassy spokesman Ricardo Alday.

A headline Wednesday on the website of the Mexican daily Milenio reads: “Radicals Prepare ‘Anti-Uterus Law.’ ”

Criticism of the measure may be widespread in Mexico, but specific protests against it are not yet being planned as it remains unclear whether the bills have a real chance of being passed.

The legislation would not reform the 14th Amendment, granting citizenship to every child born in America, but correct its alleged misapplication. In addition, US lawmakers said they would push for states to sign a document called a compact proposing distinctions on birth certificates, which would require Congressional approval.

Even Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed a tough immigration law last year, said she had no strong opinion either way on the proposal, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. Arizona has been locked in several legal challenges costing millions of dollars over SB 1070, as the immigration law is called, and Latino groups pressed for boycotts of the state.

'Anchor babies'

In Mexico, families of undocumented migrants reject the argument that birthright citizenship leads to “anchor babies,” noting that parents with American-born children are still subject to deportation. The US lawmakers proposing the bill argue, however, that 4 million children born to illegal immigrants are sapping state funds.

Hilario Fuentes, a newsstand vendor in Mexico City, said his daughter was deported last year. But she had her three US-born children return with her to Mexico City to live rather than leave them with family in California.

“Even if you have children in the United States, it doesn’t mean you are going to stay there,” Mr. Fuentes says. “Who would take proper care of them?”

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