Arizona vs. Anchor Babies

After commanding the world’s attention in 2010 with its cavalier stance on immigration, the Arizona state legislature is threatening—once again—to dominate national immigration discourse and policy.

This week, Arizona state Senator and Senate President-Elect Russell Pearce (R) spoke candidly with CNN’s Jessica Yellin about his plans to introduce a birthright citizenship bill in Arizona this coming January—a move likely to be echoed in the impending Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Invoking the hysterical “anchor baby” hype that dominated some right-wing circles earlier this year, Pearce intends to pass state legislation denying automatic (or “birthright”) citizenship to the the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. Though birthright citizenship is constitutionally mandated under the 14th amendment and protected by Supreme Court precedent, it has nevertheless become a rallying cry for a number of extremely anti-immigrant Republicans.

And while Pearce pushes the measure in Arizona, an influx of Republican U.S. representatives headed by Steve King (R-IA), the incoming chairman of the subcommittee that oversees immigration, will likely attempt to push a similar bill through Congress, according to Valeria Fernández at New America Media.

The plan, Fernández notes, is to take the contentious issue all the way to the (largely conservative) Supreme Court. But even if the issue makes it that far, it’s unlikely that the court would rule in its favor. This issue has reached the Supreme Court twice before (United States v. Wong Kim Arkin in 1898 and Pyler v. Doe in 1982) and in both cases the court maintained that birthright citizenship is constitutionally guaranteed.

Arizona: A model police state

As Pearce pushes the envelope on contentious immigration legislation in 2011, a flock of lawmakers from other states are scrambling to imitate his 2010 trailblazer, SB 1070—the controversial immigration law currently being challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice and a host of public interest organizations. Luke Johnson at the Washington Independent reports that legislators from 25 states are planning to introduce SB 1070 copycat bills next year. While the individual bills vary in scope and detail, they abide by the gist of SB 1070—criminalizing “illegal” immigrants, empowering or requiring law enforcement to ascertain and share the immigration status of individuals based on scant (or no) evidence, etc. Immigrant rights groups are concerned that the copycat bills would lead to racial profiling and the unlawful detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants without criminal records.

While few, if any, of the proposed measures are likely to pass unchallenged, the immense control Republicans now wield over state legislatures is cause for concern—as is the apparently immense influence Arizona lawmakers wield over their conservative neighbors.

Courtesy of the Washington Independent, here’s a breakdown of the states proposing copycat measures, and the likely outcomes:

Most likely to pass: Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina
Maybe: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia
Less Likely: Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island

Arizona’s ethnic studies ban goes into effect

Meanwhile, at the national level, the GOP plans to build support for its hard-line immigration agenda by propagating the fallacious notion that “illegal” immigrants steal American jobs and thus weaken the economy, according to Suzy Khimm at Mother Jones.

Accordingly, incoming House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) hopes to expand the E-Verify program—a controversial, federally-managed electronic system that allows employers to check the immigration status of potential employees. The program is supposed to drive down undocumented immigration by helping employers identify and then avoid hiring undocumented immigrants, but it has taken heat lately after a study suggested it was inaccurate 50 percent of the time.

Again, the fate of this immigration initiative could be shaped by what happens in Arizona, where an employer sanctions law requiring businesses to enroll in E-Verify has been challenged by the United States Chamber of Commerce. The case was heard before the Supreme Court earlier this month, with the federal government challenging the law on many of the same grounds upon which it is challenging SB 1070—chiefly that it preempts federal law. If the court rules against the employer sanctions law, the ruling could present serious implications for the proposed expansion of E-Verify which, while voluntary, is already unpopular with businesses concerned about the program’s cost and accuracy.

Arizona remains center stage in immigration debate

In 2010, Arizona legislators dominated the national immigration debate. As evidenced by Sarah Kate Kramer’s recap of the year in immigration at Feet in 2 Worlds, immigration discourse and policy across the nation centered on several key events in Arizona. Most notably, Arizona made history by passing SB 1070 and a host of other controversial bills including bans on ethnic studies and equal opportunity programs. A campaigning Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) reinvented himself—from an immigrant sympathizer and DREAM Act supporter to a hard-line immigration hawk who just wants to “complete the danged fence.”

Perhaps the most powerful discourse- and policy-shaping tools wielded by Arizona officials, however, were simply lies. In March, public mania over border violence peaked after Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever erroneously claimed that Arizona rancher Robert N. Krentz Jr. was shot dead by an undocumented immigrant. Then, in June, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer made the outrageous (and widely disproven) claim that law enforcement agencies had found beheaded corpses in the Arizona desert.

Through the crafting of draconian immigration laws and the unabashed spread of misinformation, the Arizona legislature cast itself as a major player in the national immigration debate this year. Having done so, it looms as a a powerful force to be reckoned with in the next.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

Photo credit: Barnaby via flickr
by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger


LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

My first thought is: "did we move all the crazies to AZ in the night and no one noticed, until now?" KARAZY people!!!

And my apologies to the sane people who live there, and are as embarrassed as I, that such racists reside in this country.

Girl U.
.7 years ago

Thank you for the article.

Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

When our founding fathers came into this country, they were not here "legally". Just because they had good intent for the betterment of people, and didn't want monarchy doesn't mean it was legal, and just because there were no laws making it illegal doesn't make it legal either. yet where are the Native Americans? In the corner where they were put there, warring tribes put on the same reservations, land that was almost unbearable to farm, etc...

Yet on the other hand, we don't complain this much when our prisoners such as murderers, rapists, etc get free medical, food, shelter, rights, libraries, gyms, etc... all thanks to us Jo Taxpayers. I'd rather help an illegal immigrant who is willing to work.

Jennifer Harris
Jennifer H7 years ago

My grandparents came here with a wave of Irish Immigrants during the turn of the century. At the time immigration wasn't legal or illegal. It just was. It was later made illegal and at that time millions of undocumented immigrants were allowed to leave the US and come back in, legally, through Canada. So, many of you claiming your greats or grands came here legally are sort of wrong.

At any rate, I can certainly understand the need to keep tabs on people entering the country. There are many reasons; disease and national security are just two that come to mind. However, is it necessary to demonize these people? They are still PEOPLE and unless a realistic way to deal with this is found it's going to keep happening regardless of Jan Brewer, AZ or anyone who disagrees with it. All I can say about this issue with the children is this..remove the word "anchor" from your does it sound when you're just talking about babies. Because that's what THIS article is about..BABIES.

Larry W.
Larry W7 years ago

"Each year the Border Patrol makes more than a million apprehensions of aliens who flagrantly violate our nation's laws by unlawfully crossing U.S. borders. Such entry is a misdemeanor, but, if repeated, becomes punishable as a felony."

"In addition to sneaking into the country (referred to as "entry without inspection — EWI") in violation of the immigration law, others enter with legal documentation and then violate the terms on which they have been admitted. The immigration authorities currently estimate that about two-thirds of all illegal immigrants are EWIs and the remainder is overstayers. Both types of illegal immigrants are deportable under Immigration and Nationality Act Section 237 (a)(1)(B) which says: "Any alien who is present in the United States in violation of this Act or any other law of the United States is deportable." " Lots of folks here. I don't know how we can enforce their roundup and deportation without dramatically increasing the size of government, which everyone says they will not support. More deportations have occurred under the current administration than ever before. Lots of folks bashing current efforts just don't have their facts straight. You will recall in 2006 the Repubs ditched the pending immigration bill because the Dems insisted on making immigration violation a felony, which would allow quicker action to deport.Businesses hiring these folks would be prosecutable, so the repubs canned it. 2010 now.

Roger H.
Roger H7 years ago

One only has to look at California's huge state deficit and see how taking a soft stance on illegal immigration is working for them financially. If California is considered a leader and the rest of the country is to follow, woe to the rest of the country. And before anyone calls me "racist", I will explain that I am all for legal immigration of anyone who wants to come here and I will always welcome them with open arms, but we are not talking about legal immigrants here.

Roger H.
Roger H7 years ago

Michael c,
The difference here is that the parents came to this country ILLEGALLY!!!!!!!!! Even children of foreign diplomats are exempt from the "Anchor Baby" provision of the 14th ammendment. So before calling people names, get your facts straight. The provision in the 14th ammendment that relates to "Anchor Babies" was put in there to cover babies of freed slaves, not of illegal immigrants. Before continuing your bullying and name calling, I suggest you refer to Care2's "Code of Conduct" or take the chance of losing your membership.

michael c.
corbin m7 years ago

For all the "morons" commenting, I'll say it again:Unless you and all those before you were/are Native American, YOU are an anchor baby. NO exceptions. And the remarkable bit, that the "morons" don't seem to understand (due to lack of research [surprise, surprise]), the automatic birther laws was a REPUBLICAN (conservative) idea/policy/victory. In fact, it was touted as one of the GREATEST political victories of the Republican party-BY the Republican party. Until this wave of hysteria and rasicm. Now they try to keep it on the hush-hush. And dumb-a$$ conservatives (who talk about personal responsibility but can't be bothered to do a little research on what they preach/support/listen/agree to. Typical) follow blindly and ignorantly along this hypocrisy. When they're ALL anchor babies themselves. Typical. Oh, and shout out to Kay L. I thought you were a Canadian citizen, but now see you're an American escapee, who got away before all the madness hit. So am I. We made it. Yayyy!