Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 1, 2011


Host: Ted Simons

Birthright Citizenship Bills


  • State Senators Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu) and David Schapira (D-Tempe) discuss legislative efforts to recognize Arizona residents as citizens of the state only if they were born in the United States to at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
Guests:
  • Ron Gould - state senator
  • David Schapira - state senator
Category: Immigration   |   Keywords: immigration, law,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Last week state lawmakers introduced bills defining an Arizona citizen as someone having at least one parent who is either a U.S. citizen or a naturalized citizen. Those pushing the bills hope the move will force the courts to reexamine the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, providing automatic birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. Joining me is Senator Ron Gould, sponsor of the bills in the Senate, and Democratic Senator David Schapira who serves as the Senate's Minority Leader.
Ted Simons: Why is this bill necessary?
Ron Gould: The Supreme Court has never really looked at this issue. The 14th Amendment was basically drafted to give former slaves citizenship because they had been ruled not citizens by the Dred Scott Amendment about 20 years before.
Ted Simons: So the idea of reconsidering this particular aspect of the Constitution, especially in light of how it affects Arizona, why is this not a good idea?
David Schapura: Well, this issue of many issues has some serious starting decisions, meaning it was decided a long time ago 1898, was when the Supreme Court ruled on this issue. We've got to be talking about the future of Arizona, where our state's headed, not something decided by the Supreme Court over 100 years ago.

Ted Simons: 1898, it was pretty cut and dried back then, not a lot of challenges since then. Why bring it up now?

Ron Gould: Those are Chinese nationals that had permanent legal status in the United States. The Court ruled their son was a citizen. They were not illegal aliens because we had open immigration at the time. Essentially people came to the United States, did their seven years and applied for citizenship. We're under a different program now. The Court didn't really address the illegals. These folks are coming here illegally and having children.
David Schapira: There was no open immigration at the time, especially for Chinese-Americans. We had something called the Chinese exclusion act. People from the Republic of China could not come to the U.S. without being citizens or having prior permission from the United States. It's the exact same problem. You actually had someone who had left the country and tried to come back, was not being allowed in, and that's where this court case stemmed from. We did not have open borders for Chinese-Americans at the time, and we don't have open borders today. It's the exact same situation.

Ted Simons: The idea of forcing the issue to get the Supreme Court to look at it again and perhaps change some things, I know conservatives don't like judicial activism. We've had people on the show complaining about that. Isn't this judicial activism?

Ron Gould: I believe it is, but we're trying to go back to the Court and trying to get a ruling on the issue. It's a 100-year-old issue. Once upon a time in America Scotsmen were not allowed to come to the United States without a letter of reference, where British men were. It's "subject to the authority thereof" that is the phrase we actually question in the 14th Amendment. This has never been litigated. They decided if you were born here, that's good enough, you were a citizen. These bills would be prospective. We're not talking about deportations and going back three generations to see who your folks were. This is prospective. We want to know whether one parent of that child is a United States citizen.

Ted Simons: Why not delineate about the certificates, Why not say the 4 least one parent has to be a U.S. citizen?
David Schapira: It's not a question for me, and it's not a question for bureaucrats. The United States Supreme Court made this decision and took into account the subject of the provision and there interpretation of that provision was talking about people here with diplomatic status, not subject to the laws of our country. Anyone in the United States right now, not here with diplomatic status, is subject to the laws of the United States. There has not been a court in the history of this country that has ruled any different on that issue.

Ted Simons: The "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" is always brought up and always considered. Certainly these folks are subject. You break the law, you're going to go to jail. That is subject to the jurisdiction thereof. How do you see that differently?

Ron Gould: That's not subject to the jurisdiction thereof. These folks owe allegiance to a foreign nation, and thats what we believe the sponsors of the 14 amendment were talking about. Certainly it wouldn't apply to people under the jurisdiction of another country. They have never sworn allegiance to the United States, they are under the jurisdiction of another countries. There's nothing wrong with going back to see if you can get a reinterpretation from the Court, the left does it all the time.

David Schapira: One of the senators in 1868 who voted for the amendment specifically stated he believes citizenship should be extended to all children born to foreigners in the United States. He was very, very clear on this issue. Yes, there are people who disagree on interpretations on both sides. We disagree sometimes on interpretations of bills you and I may vote on. But the fact of the matter is there were people with both views at the time this was passed. The Supreme Court 30 years later in 1898 made a decision on this. The members of my caucus are advocating that we in Arizona start talking about the future and stop talking about what happened 100 years ago.

Ted Simons: And who said what at what time previous to the 1890 ruling, and I understand that, it is a debate that has to happen. Then a decision is made and we have to move forward. Do we have to go back 1866 1868 to the civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment? Do we have to go back to the original discussions, knowing the case was considered and a ruling made?

Ron Gould: There's nothing wrong with going back and reconsidering the issue. We look through history and decisions change. The Constitution talks about promoting the general welfare. Well, promoting the general welfare at the time of the founders meant a feeling of general well-being. It didn't mean cash assistance. Now the word welfare means cash assistance. There's nothing wrong with revisiting things, it's done all the time. Who's to say when the Court ruled that they ruled correctly?

Ted Simons: If the Constitution is indeed a living document, why not revisit it and see if this is something that needs to be changed?

David Schapira: I'm completely okay with revisiting it, but let's make some priorities. We're in the midst of an economic recession and this is what we're focused on? We can talk about the merits of it. If we had made this change proposed in this bill a century ago, most of us wouldn't be citizens. I wouldn't be a citizen. My great-grandparents came to this country escaping anti-Semitism and oppression in Europe. Their kids wouldn't have been citizens, of this bill would have been in act 100 years ago their kids wouldn’t of been citizens, and I wouldn't be a citizen. Let's not revisit history. Let's talk about the future and if we're going look at the Constitution as a living document, let's prioritize things that are relevant and important for our future and our discussion today.

Ted Simons: Let me ask you this. Are kids born in the United States to undocumented immigrants, and thus receiving birthright citizenship, is that a problem?

David Schapira: That child did not make a decision to break any law, to violate the state's constitution or to violate what the founders intended. That kid did not do anything to violate anything. That was the reason the 14th Amendment was passed. It was the reason it was adjudicated in 1898 in this way as Senator Gould mentioned. We believe people born in this country had a right to citizenship in this country. We believe that children of slaves should have the right to citizenship and why any person born in this country should have that right.

Ted Simons: What do you say to critics who say, you're basically going after kids, you're attacking kids.

Ron Gould: Not necessarily. We're trying to remove the incentives for people to come to Arizona illegally. As it stands now, if a child is born in America they use the child as an anchor to get citizenship for themselves. They skip to the head of the line. People across the world are waiting to become an American citizen. These people are in our system and they do this, and they are gaming it and end up getting accepted before anybody else. People who have immigrated don't like this because they wait their turn in line.

Ted Simons: People say, this is targeting children born in this country. But you're going after -- I want to get a better answer -- you're going after the kids.

Ron Gould: We're not going after children, we're going after the parents and the decisions that parents make. They are under the authority of their parents. It's not going after children. It goes after the parents.

David Schapira: So let's talk about the anchor issue, let's talk about that. The bills don't even mention changing anything about the parents' status. All these bills do is create a second class of birth certificate for people born into this country, people who have committed no crime and were born here like I was born here and you were born here, to be American citizens. That's what this bill addresses. It doesn't address the problems that Senator Gould is talking about. This bill goes after babies.

Ted Simons: Respond, please.
Ron Gould: I would argue it goes after the parents and we need to address it. I have constituents who continuously ask me that, why an illegal immigrant can come across the border and the child is a citizen. They are gaming the system and we need to look at that and this is how we do it.

David Schapira: My great-grandparents came to this country from Germany in the early part of the last century. They were escaping a different kind of oppression. At that time they were facing anti-Semitism. They came to this country seeking a better life. You know what? They did it illegally. They forged documentation to get out of an anti-Semitic Europe. If they hadn't done that, and the 14th Amendment had not existed, my great-grandparents would not have been citizens. We have to think of future generations and people who might come here for similar reasons. Their children, for whatever decision their parents made, their children deserve citizenship in this country if they are born here.

Ron Gould: Currently if you are under persecution in another country you are allowed special status in the United States, and I would argue the Senators Schapira’s grandparents or great grand parents would have been able to obtain that in the United States at the time if it was currently happening.
Ted Simons: Last question before we let you go to a previous point. A lot of folks are saying this is, with all the problems Arizona has right now, this is a waste of time, it should not be at the top of the list or even being considered. How do you respond?
Ron Gould: Two days ago I spent four hours in a committee discussing how much a homeowner's association can charge to copy documents. How much they can charge for xerox fees. If we can discuss that, we can certainly discuss this.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

David Schapira: Thanks for having us, Ted.

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