PHOENIX - Ignoring pleas from the business community, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to deny citizenship to children born in Arizona whose parents can't prove citizenship or permanent legal presence.
The 8-5 vote came after Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, urged lawmakers not to take up this legal fight. He said the question of who is entitled to citizenship and the precise meaning of the 14th Amendment should be decided by Congress and not by each state.
His criticism drew derision from Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, who authored SB 1308 and 1309. The two measures would mandate two birth certificates: one to children whose parents are citizens or permanent legal residents, and a different one to those who cannot provide such proof.
Ultimately, the aim is to force the U.S. Supreme Court to consider who is and is not entitled to citizenship by virtue of where they are born.
"I think your opposition is clearly transparent," Gould told Hamer. "I think your group is 'open borders' because you like cheap labor."
Hamer conceded that at least part of the reason for opposition is business-related.
"This kind of controversial issues make it less likely for conventions to come to Arizona," Hamer said. "The concern is that this is going to put Arizona through another trial, and it's going to hurt innocent business- people that are trying to get ahead."
Angela Abraham, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told lawmakers the legislation is meaningless because prior court decisions interpreting the 14th Amendment have made it clear that anyone born on U.S. soil is entitled to citizenship.
But John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University, said, "If the 14th Amendment was clear, we wouldn't be here."
The amendment, passed after the Civil War, says that "all persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."
Everyone acknowledged it was passed with slaves and their children in mind; the question is how broad is its reach.