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Illegal immigration: Can states win fight against 'birthright citizenship'?

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“We are here to send a very public message to Congress,” said Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R) at a press conference Tuesday. “We want to bring an end to the illegal-alien invasion that is having such a negative impact on our states.”

Targeting birthright citizenship has clear economic and political appeal – "economic, since every state is facing severe budget shortfalls, [and] political, since birthplace citizenship does not require consent, and therefore does not demand complete, political allegiance to the US," says Catherine Wilson, an immigration specialist at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

Yet she and others also suggest that birthright citizenship could be a difficult target for conservatives. The 14th Amendment is among the clearest passages of the Constitution, some legal experts say. It is fraught with racial sensitivities, given that it was passed after the Civil War to redress some of the injustices of slavery. And it is, some say, a symbol of the very American exceptionalism that conservatives value.

"Is birthplace citizenship an important and longstanding feature of American exceptionalism, or is it not?” Professor Wilson asks.

The 'anchor baby' debate

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