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5.12.07

You Can Be A Citizen, But You Can't Have Proof Of It

Many on the right like to charge "sanctuary cities" with trying to skirt federal immigration law. Sanctuary cities, of course, are municipalities that have decided that enforcing federal law is the job of specially trained federal agents (in this case, ICE), and that local agencies shouldn't compromise their ability to do their own jobs in order to pick up the slack.

But now it seems some nativists are quite happy to skirt federal immigration law when it serves their own purposes. Case in point is a proposed Arizona ballot initiative that would bar hospitals from issuing birth certificates to children of undocumented immigrants.

Birthright citizenship is long-standing and well-established U.S. law. Nativists are welcome to try to change that law through federal legislation. But this is not some ambiguous principle that they're free to ask their state to interpret in a certain way.

The proposition would not technically take citizenship away from children of undocumented parents. It would just deprive them of the ability to prove their citizenship. They will encounter difficulty accessing various rights, such as voting or employment (or getting birth certificates for their own children!), to which they are entitled as citizens. Indeed, the first time they have any interaction with any government agency outside of a sanctuary city who asks to see their papers, they could find themselves on a bus to Nogales. Proponents of this proposition are trying to make it so that U.S. citizens will be wrongfully deported. So much for just wanting the laws to be properly enforced.

Sadly, the voters of Arizona have never met an immigrant-bashing ballot initiative that they didn't like. So if you're an Arizonan expecting a child in 2009 or after, you might want to make sure you carry your up-to-date passport at all times.

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