Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce (R) claimed last week that Americans are not citizens of the United States but citizens of their respective states.
“Most of us weren’t around when the Constitution was written,” Pearce said during his speech at an Oceanside Tea Party rally. “But you remember we kind of existed before Congress, the states. We created the Congress, we created the federal government, by contract. Do you know what existed before the Congress? The states.”
Members of the Arizona Legislature, led by Pearce, have introduced a bill that attempts to grant the Arizona the power to ignore federal laws it does not want to comply with.
“Do you know, you’re not a citizen of the United States,” Pearce continued. “You’re a citizen of a sovereign state. The fifty sovereign states make up United States of America, we’re citizens of those sovereign states. It is not a delegated authority. It’s an inherent authority that states have over the federal government.”
If passed and signed into law, Senate Bill 1433 would create a 12-member committee within the state legislature with the power to review and recommend to the full legislature laws they think are unconstitutional. The full legislature would then have the power to nullify the federal statute by a majority vote.
The legality of the proposed legislation is questionable, as it runs counter to Article VI, Clause 2 and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which have been interpreted as making federal law trump state law.
Article VI of the Constitution, commonly known as the Supremacy Clause, states that, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Similarly, in a set of decisions that has come to be known as the “incorporation doctrine”, the Supreme Court of the United States routinely ruled that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment prevents state and local governments from violating most provisions of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The 14th Amendment also states that all people born in the United States are citizens of the United States.
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