CITIZENSHIP

Heights lawmaker challenges citizenship of U.S.-born babies

2011-02-07T23:30:00Z 2011-02-08T17:16:32Z Heights lawmaker challenges citizenship of U.S.-born babies

By TOM LUTEY

Of The Gazette Staff

The Billings Gazette
February 07, 2011 11:30 pm  • 

A Billings Heights lawmaker would deny state citizenship to U.S.-born babies of illegal immigrants under a bill introduced Monday in Helena.

Republican Rep. James Knox said his bill is step toward reforming U.S. immigration laws by denying state citizenship and all included privileges to U.S.-born babies of illegal immigrants.

If the bill became law, Montana would issue two separate kinds of birth certificates, one for babies of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, another for babies of undocumented immigrants. Only babies born to U.S. citizens or legal occupants would get certificates recognizing them as naturally born.

This year, Republican lawmakers from at least 38 states are pursuing similar bills out of concern that U.S.-born babies of illegal immigrants are actually planned tickets to U.S. citizenship for their parents.

The derogatory term for the children is “anchor babies,” and the similarly worded bills have become known as “anchor baby” bills.

Authors of the bills hope to force the U.S. Supreme Court to change the 14th Amendment, which has established rules of U.S. citizenship since the Civil War.

Proponents of the bills say the United States currently has the interpretation of the 14th Amendment wrong and that the benefits extended to U.S.-born babies of illegal immigrants are unfairly costing Americans money.

“It has been misinterpreted and misinterpreted with well meaning intentions but the misinterpretation is costing America a lot in tax dollars that have to support the children of people who aren't citizens,” Knox said.

The freshman lawmaker said the children could still be recognized as Montana citizens if their parents pursued and were granted U.S. citizenship. The bill meant Montana wouldn't recognize the children as state citizens, although federal law still would.

Opposition to Knox's proposal, House Bill 392, was strong at an afternoon hearing before the House Committee on Federal Relations.

Native American lawmakers Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez, D-Billings, and Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Rocky Boy, submitted letter objecting to the bill because it would deny citizenship to members of Montana's sovereign Indian Nations. Other opponents raised issues about U.S.-born babies of parents with dual citizenship.

Niki Zupanic of the Montana American Civil Liberties Union said the Knox bill was discriminatory and intended to deny citizenship rights repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court.

“This runs contrary to the 14th Amendment,” Zupanic said. “The real simple test for citizenship is if you're born here and you're subject to our laws, you're a citizen.”

Legal arguments over the intent of the 14th Amendment, used initially to establish citizenship for slaves and their descendants, have repeatedly backed the citizenship rights of U.S.-born babies of foreign parents, including children of immigrant Chinese laborers who were still subject of China.

Contact Tom Lutey at tlutey@billingsgazette.com or 657-1288.

Contact Tom Lutey at

tlutey@billingsgazette.com or 657-1288

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