Plan to cut off citizenship for children of illegal immigrants stalls
By Cindy Carcamo
The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, CA), April 7, 2010
A ballot initiative targeting children born to people who are in the country illegally is on hold after anti-illegal immigration activists failed to garner enough signatures to make June's California ballot.
Anti-illegal immigration activists who are attempting to cut off automatic citizenship for children who were born on United States soil are now aiming to put their California Taxpayer Protection initiative on the ballot two years from now, said Ted Hilton, a San Diego resident who leads the effort.
'We're still working behind the scenes,' Hilton said.
First, he said, his group needs to look for donors with deep pockets.
Hilton said the money is needed to pay for professional signature gatherers instead of the volunteers they relied on last year, who fell short in gathering the more than 600,000 signatures by the November deadline to make June's ballot.
Evelyn Miller, whose Irvine home served as something of a clearinghouse last year for incoming petitions from surrounding counties, said she and others will not join the effort again unless there's enough money in the bank.
'When you need 600,000 signatures you need a million dollars in the bank before you start, as far as I'm concerned,' she said.
Miller is a member of anti-illegal immigration group California Coalition for Immigration Reform, based in Huntington Beach.
Hilton said he is currently attempting to convince national anti-illegal immigration groups, such as NumberUSA, to help fund the effort.
Hilton's initiative sought to impose new rules for birth certificates, essentially calling for the state to issue one type of birth certificate to children of U.S. citizens and green card holders and another to children of temporary residents and of those who are here illegally. Next time around, Hilton said the initiative will likely take a different incarnation but still target what he called 'anchor babies.'
While states cannot determine who gets to be a U.S. citizen, Hilton says the initiative would cut off benefits for the U.S.-born children of people who are in the country illegally. Many scholars argue that changing the definition of citizenship would require a constitutional amendment, which could only be done on the federal level.
Even if it were to pass, Hilton expects the initiative would be challenged in court. However, Hilton has said at least it would bring the issue of birthright citizenship to a national debate.
He hopes any such challenge would eventually wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which might respond by issuing a ruling on the definition of citizenship.
Immigrant rights activists, attorneys and constitutional scholars have blasted the anti-birthright citizenship initiatives, saying it wouldn't discourage people from coming to the country illegally.
'I don't see how (the initiative) would deter illegal immigration at all. Most people coming here to the United States illegally are for the jobs and to reunite with their families,' said Margaret Stock during a roundtable news conference last year on the issue.
Stock is an attorney who's represented children of military families who were born outside the United States and are trying to fix their status.
Stock, a lieutenant colonel in the Military Police Corps and U.S. Army Reserve, said the 'anchor baby' idea is a myth because a child born on U.S. soil can't sponsor his or her parents for permanent residence until he or she becomes 21. And, the process is long, and requirements are strict and challenging to overcome, she said.
'Having a baby here doesn't mean you get to stay here legally,' Stock had said. 'It means that if you're deported, you have to decide to leave your baby behind or take them with you.'