Yesterday, a group of state legislators gathered in a small room in Washington, D.C. to present their plan for reinterpreting the 14th Amendment—the amendment which states that all persons born in the U.S., and subject to jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of U.S. and the states in which they reside. Although the legislators proclaimed a desire to “protect the states” and to “love” the 14th Amendment, which was adopted after the Civil War to guarantee citizenship to the American-born children of freed slaves, you wouldn’t know it listening by to their blatant disregard for the American taxpayer—upon whom they plan on sticking costly litigation fees. Chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee, Congressman Steve King (R-IA), also introduced a bill in the new Congress to end constitution citizenship.
A group of state legislators, State Legislators for Legal Immigration, presented two measures intended to prevent the American-born children of undocumented immigrants from automatically becoming citizens—a state compact requiring states to issue two different types of birth certificates (one for those considered “natural-born U.S. citizens” and another singling out those whom the state does not consider a citizen) and a bill defining “state citizenship” which excludes the American-born children of undocumented immigrants.
Yet, as the New York Times reports, the legislation isn’t intended to have a “practical effect” any time soon. The legislators, who plan on introducing the measures in 14 states, admit that these measures are intended to spur costly legal challenges so that the Supreme Court will take up the case and issue a decision—which is exactly what is so irritating about their claim to “protect the states.” Who’s protecting their states from costly litigation fees?
As we’ve reported before, cities and states that have already attempted to pass restrictive immigration legislation are still paying the price. Hazleton, Pennsylvania, currently faces $2.4 million in legal fees; Farmers Branch, Texas, has already spent about $3.2 million to defend itself since September 2006; Fremont, Nebraska estimates the annual cost of defending their immigration ordinance to be about $750,000. And in Arizona, where their immigration law SB1070 was challenged by the DOJ, residents must be feeling the economic consequences of the tourism boycott, which the Center for American Progress estimates in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Is this really the job of state legislators? Or should they, instead, be working on ways to bring additional revenue into the state, like state Rep. Luz Robles of Utah who introduced an immigration bill that provides undocumented immigrants already here a legal avenue to work, which would in turn generate additional tax revenue for the state? With many states facing a budget deficit, many are urging their state lawmakers to prioritize jobs and economic growth.
And besides, as Lucas Guttentag of the ACLU points out, “no amount of legislative grandstanding can change what the Constitution says and requires. It’s hard to imagine a more anti-American proposal than one that would judge a person or baby by the status of their grandparents or great grandparents [...] That is not America. That is not permitted under the Constitution. That is not what has made this country great.”
Photo by PA State Representative Daryl Metcalfe.