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Sponsor of Arizona citizenship bill hopes it prompts lawsuit

By Michael Martinez, CNN
Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh hopes his bill forces a Supreme Court decision.
Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh hopes his bill forces a Supreme Court decision.
  • A proposal introduced in the Arizona Legislature would end citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants
  • A primary sponsor of the bill says he expects the matter to end up in court
  • The proposal deals with the meaning of the 14th Amendment's birthright citizenship clause

(CNN) -- The Arizona state legislator who co-sponsored the latest immigration crackdown proposal -- to end citizenship for U.S.-born kids of illegal immigrants -- told CNN Friday that he hopes the legislation will provoke a lawsuit so that the U.S. Supreme Court "can end the controversy over the true meaning of the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause."

The legislation was introduced Thursday in the Arizona Legislature and is part of an effort planned in about a dozen states to end automatic citizenship for children born in the United States to illegal immigrants, said Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh, a Republican who's one of two primary sponsors of the bill.

The bill had been in the works since last summer.

"The policy of granting U.S. citizenship based upon GPS location at moment of delivery is a nonsensical one that only 15 percent of countries worldwide adhere to," Kavanagh told CNN.

Given Arizona's track record in passing draconian immigration crackdowns -- which often land in court -- Kavanagh said he expects the Arizona Legislature to pass the measure.

Under federal law, citizenship is automatically granted to children born on U.S. soil, regardless of their parents' residency status.

"Each year, 200,000 to 300,000 children born to illegal immigrants and visiting tourists and non-citizens legally here on business are given automatic citizenship based on what we believe is an erroneous interpretation of the 14th Amendment, specifically the clause that states 'subject to the jurisdiction thereof,'" Kavanagh told CNN.

"The current false interpretation means that you can be arrested, tried and convicted. But when the 14th Amendment was written, it means you only owed allegiance to the United States," Kavanagh said. "If the meaning relates to sole allegiance, the children of illegal immigrants naturally owe their allegiance to their parents' country and not the United States.

"Dispensing citizenship like a door prize even to people who snuck into the back door is poor policy and greatly increases the costs of educating, medicating and giving other benefits to the children of illegal aliens born here," Kavanagh said.

If approved, the legislation would apply only to children born after the law went into effect or after a ruling from the expected court action, Kavanagh said.

Critics say the measure is unconstitutional, and Andrei Cherny, chairwoman of the Arizona Democratic Party, called the proposal "downright un-American."

"What makes America so special is the fact that anyone born here is as much an American as anyone else," Cherny said in a statement.

"As the party in power, Republicans have a responsibility to stand up for real solutions on immigration, jobs and the economy. Instead, they've picked yet another political battle that solves nothing and wastes taxpayer money," Cherny said.

Kavanagh also supported Senate Bill 1070, the law that gave Arizona authorities expanded immigration enforcement powers. But that law has ended up in federal court, and a federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of its most controversial provisions -- such as police officers' checking a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws -- as the case proceeds in court.

Critics says the law would lead to racial profiling.