January 28, 2011 / 3:52 AM / 7 years ago

Proposed Arizona law targets "birthright" citizenship

<p>A demonstrator holds a sign during an immigration rally outside Arizona's State Capitol in Phoenix, May 1, 2010.Joshua Lott</p>

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona Republicans introduced legislation on Thursday seeking to challenge the right to U.S. citizenship for children born in the state whose parents are illegal immigrants or other non-citizens.

The move by state legislators came the same day the sheriff for Phoenix and surrounding areas sent a force of 200 deputies and citizen volunteers on an immigration sweep, an action the controversial lawman has undertaken periodically since 2008.

Republicans introduced bills in the Arizona legislature that aim to provoke a legal review of the 14th amendment to the Constitution, which anchors citizenship rights for the children of immigrants.

The 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."

It was adopted in 1868 after the U.S. Civil War to ensure citizenship for former African-American slaves.

The aim is "to trigger ... a Supreme Court review of the phrase 'subject to the jurisdiction thereof' in the 14th amendment," said Rep. John Kavanagh, one on the backers of the legislation.

It ultimately seeks "to deny citizenship to any child born of parents who are not citizens of the United States, be they illegal aliens, or foreigners on business or for tourist purposes," he added.

A total of four proposals were introduced, two in the state House of Representatives and two in the Senate, where Republicans have a majority.

Kavanagh said the legislation would likely come to a vote in several weeks, after legislators vote on the cash-strapped border state's budget.

SHERIFF'S SWEEP

In Phoenix, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Thursday kicked off a sweep to crack down on illegal immigration.

Aside from his deputies, Arpaio also relied on volunteer members of a newly formed Illegal Immigration Enforcement Posse, who took to the streets in a two-day countywide operation targeting drop houses, drug activity and human smuggling, said sheriff's spokesman Sergeant Jesse Spurgin.

Action flick star Steven Seagal is a member of the sheriff's posse, and he took part in the operation, Spurgin said. Twenty-two suspected illegal immigrants had been arrested by late Thursday, he said.

The legislation Arizona lawmakers introduced on Thursday is part of a coordinated drive by Republican legislators in several U.S. states that seeks to deny birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

The National Conference of State Legislatures said Arizona is the sixth state this year to introduce legislation relating to birth records or birth certificates and the foreign born.

The current drive follows the desert state's tough immigration crackdown last year that required police to quiz those they suspected were in the country illegally about their immigration status. Key parts of the state law were blocked by a federal judge before they came into effect.

Arizona has appealed the ruling.

Also on Thursday, a citizens' group took out petitions to recall Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, a high-profile Republican behind bills aimed at illegal immigrants.

Halina Reed, treasurer for Arizonans for Better Government, said the group opposes those bills. The petition needs to collect 7,756 signatures by May 27 to qualify for the ballot.

State Democrats slammed their Republican colleagues' latest proposal as a waste of "taxpayers' time and money" that would tie the state up in further costly litigation.

"Instead of focusing on jobs, the economy and a strong future for Arizona, (the backers of the law) want to get Arizona involved in another losing lawsuit," state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said in a statement.

Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Jerry Norton

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