Critics of the birthright legislation, which aims to challenge the interpretation that children of undocumented aliens are American citizens, upped the ante this week by starting an effort to remove from office the state’s most ardent foe of illegal immigration.
A group called Arizonans for Better Government filed on Jan. 27 a recall petition against Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, who handily won his re-election bid in November.
Even if the group succeeds in getting the signatures necessary to initiate the recall, the chance of unseating Pearce is minuscule. The Republican from Mesa has won all his elections since 2001, when he first came to the Legislature as a state representative.
He also won re-election last year with 57 percent of the vote in District 18, which is one of Arizona’s most conservative enclaves.
The recall activists must gather 7,756 signatures from registered in Pearce’s district. They have until May 27 to get the signatures.
The recall effort may be a portent of the immigration wringer Arizona could go through just several months after the state adopted a law requiring law enforcers to inquire about people’s immigration status if there is suspicion they’re in the country illegally. That law was immediately challenged in court, and its major provisions are under an injunction.
The bills challenging the established interpretation of the 14th Amendment will likely continue to put Arizona in the national spotlight.
Pearce is not the Senate measure’s primary sponsor, although he cosponsored it.
In a press briefing Friday, the group behind the recall petition reiterated arguments that lawmakers’ decision to submit the birthright bills show they’re unfit to hold office. The group said the bill’s proponents, including Pearce, took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
“How they are violating this is introducing on purpose legislation that directly controverts the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, controverts Supreme Court law,” said immigration attorney Jose Luis Penalosa, who argued that automatic citizenship has been codified since 1952.
But Sen. Ron Gould, the primary sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, said the Supreme Court has not specifically ruled whether children of illegal immigrants are American citizens.
“People that support the breaking of United States and Arizona law are probably not the people that you want to turn to interpret the (U.S.) Constitution,” Gould said.
SB1309 and HB 2562 create and define an “Arizona citizenship.”
The second proposal, SB1308 and HB2561, would direct Arizona’s governor to enter the state in a compact with other states to create two sets of birth certificates. One would be for children whose parents are citizens, while the other would be for children whose parents cannot prove they are in the country legally.
The key phrase in both measures is “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” Proponents argue that children whose parents are here illegally aren’t “subject” to U.S. jurisdiction.