Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A tale of two countries

Several state legislatures in the U.S. are considering proposals to bar citizenship for children born to illegal immigrant parents. Arizonan legislators put off voting for one such measure On Monday though the bill’s sponsor admitted that the proposal is not dead while the South Dakotan House Judiciary Committee voted to scrap a bill challenging automatic citizenship.

Legislative supporters of the Arizonan bill believe that its needed since the citizenship of children of undocumented parents should not fall under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Other backers of the proposals in Arizona and other states subscribe to the “anchor babies” myth alleging that illegal immigrants exploit the birth of their kids in order to gain public benefits.

On the other hand, opponents of the bill believe that the plan is unconstitutional and ineffective in trying to solve problems related to immigration. Furthermore, a recent Pew Hispanic Center report may have taken some steam out of the “anchor babies” argument since only 9% of undocumented immigrants with U.S.-born children arrived after 2007.

Across the Atlantic in Spain the government announced that they would legalize the previously undocumented status of these minors by granting them residency permits. Under the proposed "arraigo familiar" the parents must prove that they have maintained Spanish residency for a certain period of time and there their children reside with them. According to the Ministry of Immigration the proposal is currently in a draft version though it should be finalized in two months.

Much like the aforementioned U.S. proposals the Spanish plan also has its backers and detractors; for instance, a spokesman with the opposition People’s Party (PP) implied that the plan is political posturing by the government. Another commonality between both countries is that the weakened global economy has fed a backlash on immigration. As noted in The Economist:
JoaquĆ­n Arango, of Madrid’s Complutense University, points out that the PP is an exception on the European right in that it has not turned immigration into a political battlefield. It would be natural for the right to behave more as it does elsewhere, he says. For the moment, Spaniards remember their own recent experience of emigration; they show no taste for big rows about immigration. But recession and the competition for jobs could alter that.
Image- Reuters/ Joshua Lott via Reuters (“A demonstrator holds a sign during an immigration rally outside Arizona's State Capitol in Phoenix, May 1, 2010. ”)
Online Sources- The Daily Republic, Canadian Press, ABC News, telecinco.es, BBC Mundo, Europa Press, The Economist

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