Group Seeks to Limit Services for Children of Undocumented

Nicole C. Brambila, Desert Sun (Palm Springs, California), September 29, 2009

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Families with mixed legal status–such as the Jaramillos–are one of many complications created by the nation’s broken immigration policies that fuel divisive debate over reform, say researchers at the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research center in Washington D.C.

And anti-immigration advocates aren’t waiting for President Barack Obama’s promised overhaul.

Local supporters are collecting signatures for a proposed California initiative that would require that birth certificates be stamped “foreign” for U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants–a tactic designed to limit the state benefits they receive.

They want it on the ballot next year.

The proposed measure is hailed by supporters as a way to rein in state spending by discouraging immigrants from having what they dub “anchor babies,” a derogatory term for U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants that give the family a foothold in the country.

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Opponents call the initiative xenophobic and racist.

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Access to services

Undocumented immigrants can receive assistance for their U.S.-born, dependent children, even though they themselves do not qualify for these programs.

The proposed initiative would change that.

Only qualifying participants would be able to claim benefits for their children. So the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, while citizens, would no longer qualify for social services.

If passed, the proposed initiative would:

Eliminate cash assistance through CalWORKs, a state welfare program for needy California families.

Require that parents sign an affidavit declaring their U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in the country.

Compel counties to issue two types of birth certificates.

Here’s how it would work:

Before receiving a U.S. birth certificate for her child, a non-citizen would be required to submit an affidavit declaring her lawful presence in the country. She would also have to declare her country of origin, means of financial support, and provide a photo and fingerprint, along with $75.

The child’s birth certificate would then be stamped: “foreign.”

The county would then submit the information to the Department of Homeland Security.

U.S. citizens, too, would be required to submit an affidavit declaring their citizenship.

At this time, U.S. citizens–regardless of their parents’ legal status–are eligible for social services.

Sentiment not new

The measure requires 433,971 signatures to be placed on the June 2009 ballot.

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Tight economic times fan an anti-immigrant sentiment, state historians say.

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Unconstitutional?

Legal scholars, historians and Hilton expect a legal challenge to this initiative as well.

“I think the initiative goes against the grain of the 14th Amendment and is unconstitutional,” said Armando Navarro, a UC Riverside political science professor.

“It’s a manifestation of the increasing racism that is beginning to again accelerate.”

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“We created a window for those crazy right-winger types to come up with this type of initiative because there’s a vacuum.

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This proposed initiative would only serve to fan the flames against the undocumented, local advocates say.

Issuing a separate birth certificate, they say, could lead to harassment at best or secondary citizenry at worse.

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