WASHINGTON — Oklahoma state Rep. Randy Terrill, along with legal experts and lawmakers from other states, unveiled legislation here Wednesday aimed at sparking a court battle over the 14th Amendment and so-called birthright citizenship.
The effort, organized by a group called State Legislators for Legal Immigration, envisions states approving bills to define state citizenship and entering into a compact in which states would issue two types of birth certificates — one for children with at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen and one for children born to illegal immigrants.
The compact would have to be approved by Congress.
At a raucous news conference interrupted several times by protesters claiming the effort was racist, supporters said the goal wasn't to deport newborns or their parents since that was a federal responsibility. They also are not proposing changes directly to the 14th Amendment.
Rather, they said, states would be asserting their authority to define citizenship within their borders using a clause from the 14th Amendment. Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe called it “a calculated, strategic step forward.”
Two legal experts who worked on the legislation said they would expect a quick legal challenge to the bills and that the original meaning of the 14th Amendment could then be tested in federal courts.
Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh said the hope is that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately will rule on the question.
Terrill, a Moore Republican who has authored legislation in the past targeting illegal immigrants and plans to sponsor a package of bills in the state Legislature this year, said, “I've long considered birthright citizenship to be the holy grail, if you will, of the illegal immigration debate.”
The interpretation of the 14th Amendment conferring citizenship on every person born in the United States, he said, has “created a perverse incentive for foreign nationals to break U.S. law” and has spawned an industry for foreigners who come to the U.S. to have children.