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Activists decry plans for ‘second class’ of US citizen

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Human rights activists and some constitutional scholars are denouncing a proposal by a group of state lawmakers to create a “second class” of US citizenship that would apply to children of illegal immigrants.

State Legislators for Legal Immigration — a group that represents lawmakers from 40 states — announced this week it will be pushing for a radical redefinition of American citizenship at the state level.

Among the proposals the group is championing is one that would see the creation of a separate class of citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. Under the proposal, a newborn’s parents’ legal status would have to be determined before a birth certificate is issued. If the child’s parents aren’t legally in the United States, its birth certificate would be specially marked.

“Although the proposed model statute claims not to confer any particular benefit or penalty on the basis of the different markings, differentiating citizens on the basis of their parents’ immigration status would inevitably result in discriminatory treatment,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“International law, as well as US law, requires governments to guarantee equal treatment under the law,” HRW program director Alison Parker said. “This invidious proposal seeks to thwart that cherished right.”

State Legislators for Legal Immigration hope to “correct the monumental misapplication of the 14th Amendment” with the legislation, the group said Wednesday.

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“According to the 14th Amendment, the primary requirements for US citizenship are dependent on total allegiance to America, not mere physical geography,” Pennsylvania Republican Daryl D. Metcalfe said. “The purpose of this model legislation is to restore the original intent of the 14th Amendment….”

Writing at the CNN website, columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr., argues that the group has fundamentally misread the 14th Amendment, the first section of which reads, “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.”

What part of “legal” and “U.S. citizen” don’t these activists understand? Some restrictionists and racists like to claim that they have no problem with legal immigrants, that their beef is solely with those who enter the country illegally or overstay a visa unlawfully. Is that so? This movement puts the lie to that claim by targeting a group of people who have every “legal” right to be here.

Arguing against the claim that such a law is necessary to stop the phenomenon of “anchor babies” — in which undocumented immigrants have children in the US in order to stay in the country — Navarrette Jr. argued the problem is fictional.

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There is no such thing as anchor babies. Just ask Elvira Arellano, who now resides in Mexico because she was deported in August 2007 despite having an 8-year-old son who was born in the United States. There are, however, anchor jobs gladly provided by U.S. employers, including homeowners eager to get others to do their chores. It’s jobs that keep illegal immigrants “anchored” here. Stop hiring, and you’ll send them on their way.

“This entire crusade is an immoral, illogical and ill-conceived maneuver that will further divide the American people and ultimately destroy the Republican Party,” Navarrette Jr. writes.

Gabriel J. Chin, a law professor at the University of Arizona, told the New York Times that the proposed legislation was “unwise, un-American and unconstitutional.”

But the debate over the proposed law has launched all the same, particularly among more conservative-leaning news outlets. Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. said Thursday that it’s time for the US to “begin to discuss” the idea of “two classes of citizenship.”

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“What kind of citizenship could you get?” Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson asked.

“I don’t know,” Johnson Jr. replied. “And this is something that I think we need to begin to discuss in this country.”

The following video was broadcast on Fox News, Jan. 6, 2011, and was uploaded to the Web by MediaMatters.

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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