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Legislators set sights on 'anchor babies'

By Mariano Castillo, Shannon Travis and Mary Snow, CNN
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Immigration foes target baby citizens
  • A proposed state compact would create two types of birth certificates
  • State Legislators for Legal Immigration revealed the proposal Wednesday
  • The proposed legislation can affect so-called "anchor babies"
  • It would not affect any other groups

(CNN) -- A group of state legislators opposed to illegal immigration proposed a legislative "fix" Wednesday that would prevent children of illegal immigrants born in the United States from being citizens.

The group, State Legislators for Legal Immigration, revealed its strategy at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

The lawmakers presented two model documents: a bill that narrowly interprets the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and a state compact that calls for two different types of birth certificates, depending on parents' legal status.

The coalition counts members from 40 states. It argues that the 14th Amendment has been wrongly applied to so-called "anchor babies."

Specifically, the one-page bill interprets the authors' view of the first line of the amendment: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

In the bill, "jurisdiction" of the United States is taken to mean a child of at least one parent who owes "no allegiance" to any other country, or a child without citizenship or nationality in another country. This would exclude children of parents who immigrated illegally, presumably because they may owe allegiance to their home country, or their children may hold another country's nationality. The bill has a clause that would allow legal immigrants to maintain U.S. citizenship for their kids.

"An allegiance to the country has to go hand in hand with being born on our soil to actually be granted citizenship, that's what foreign nationals do not provide by having their children here, and we believe that to protect American lives, liberty and property we ultimately have to uphold the Constitution as it was written, as it was debated, and as the states ratified it with original intent," Daryl Metcalfe, the Pennsylvania lawmaker who leads the group, told CNN.

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The second document is a compact between states, whose signatories would agree to "make a distinction in the birth certificates" of those who are born subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and those who are not, under the same criteria used in the bill.

"We are not seeking to amend the Constitution or change the 14th Amendment in any way. In fact, we are merely seeking to restore its original intent," said Republican Oklahoma state Rep. Randy Terrill.

The state lawmakers are banding together because of the federal government's failure to enforce border security, he said.

"So no one should be surprised that the state policy-makers are fed up, because the federal government either can't or won't act. The truth of the matter is we've just had enough. And we're stepping up to the plate to fill this massive policy void that has been left by the federal government," he said.

State Rep. John Kavanagh of Arizona said, "Opponents of our reasoned attempt to restore the original intent of the 14th Amendment will claim that ours is a fringe, extremist position. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The granting of citizenship by GPS location at delivery -- giving out citizenship like a door prize ... that is the fringe position."

The news conference was interrupted several times by protesters, who stood up one by one and screamed questions at the legislators, blasting the proposal. A few protesters called the idea racist. Each time a protester stood up, a supporter of the legislators would scream back, "sit down!" Some were escorted out of the room.

Opponents say that this group of state lawmakers is in effect trying to modify a constitutional amendment, something that can only be done at the federal level.

"We believe the U.S. Constitution is a sacred document to who we are as a nation. And that any attempt to amend the Constitution and such a core value that is represented within the 14th Amendment is misguided if not extreme," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.

"Together with Arizona's law that legitimizes racial profiling, these kinds of proposals are a new generation of Jim Crow laws and something that is just going to be a blemish to American society. We should just say, 'No,'" said Clarrissa Martinez, director of immigration and national campaigns for the National Council of La Raza.

Khris Kobach, secretary of state-elect for Kansas, said the bill does not attempt to modify the 14th Amendment at all.

"The bill does not attempt to deny U.S. citizenship to anyone. The bill does not attempt to usurp from Congress its authority to decide who is entitled to United States citizenship under federal law, consistent with the floor established by section 1 of the 14th Amendment."