With the new Congress unlikely to make any progress on immigration bills, states are jumping in with an effort to deny citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.
The goal of state legislators from Pennsylvania, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia and Oklahoma isn't to revise the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which grants automatic U.S. citizenship to children born on American soil. They want to fight all the way to the Supreme Court and revive the concept of "state citizenship."
"We want to have our day in court," said Arizona state Rep. John Kavanaugh, who has been behind some of his state's tough anti-immigrant laws. Citzenship, he said, should not be handed out like a "door prize."
USA TODAY's Alan Gomez was on hand for the state legislators' news conference yesterday, held right before the 112th Congress was sworn into office. The hour-long event was interrupted several times by protestors, Alan reports.
Newly minted Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the son of Cuban immigrants, thinks the emphasis on the 14th Amendment is the wrong way to go.
"I think that's not really an issue that we need to be confronting," Rubio told Gannett's Bart Jansen. "The way we deal with immigration is we have to secure the border and to create an electronic verification system."
Critics of the 14th Amendment have supporters in Congress. GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jon Kyl of Arizona are among the most vocal about changing the automatic citizenship law.
Congress in recent years has found it difficult to pass immigration legislation, and a Democratic-led Senate and a GOP-run House could make it even tougher politically. Last year, Graham, Kyl and other Senate Republicans blocked passage of the DREAM Act, which would have granted citizenship to some foreign-born children who are in the country illegally if they attended some college or served in the military.
Citizenship bills could be introduced in as many as 40 states, according to Kris Kobach, who becomes Kansas secretary of State this month.
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