MT 2011 Legislature

Feb 8, 2011 12:11 PM by Marnee Banks (Helena)

Proposal aims to interpret 14th Amendment

Montana State Representative James Knox (R-Billings) is proposing a bill which interprets the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution and defines a Montana citizen.

Currently, a person born on U.S. soil is a U.S. citizen regardless of whether or not their parents are citizens or not.

According to Knox, this is a misinterpretation of the law.

His bill states a child must have at least one parent who "owes no allegiance to any foreign sovereignty."

Knox said, "The 14th amendment was never intended to guarantee citizenship to those born here of parents who are not themselves citizens. It was never intended to create a symbolic anchor that allows parents and other family members who are not citizens themselves to pass into the country and access to our many well-intended social services."

One person spoke in favor of the bill, while more than 10 people spoke against it.

Opponents of the bill say the state has no right to interpret the U.S. Constitution, and say that Knox's bill would deny Montana citizenship to people who have dual citizenship.

Niki Zupanic of the ACLU of Montana said, "Representative Knox instead calls them 'anchor babies'. I call the people targeted by this bill some of our most inspiring true American success stories."

Wilmot Collins, a professor at the University of Montana, said, "This bill is telling me my son that I had while I was a refugee is not an American citizen.

Immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath said, "I know that I won't stand for having my citizenship tinkered with."

The American Indian Caucus opposed the bill saying it could deny certain Native Americans their U.S. citizenship; Knox responded by saying he will amend the bill to make sure that doesn't happen.

Click here to read the full text of House Bill 392.

Click here to read the 14th amendment.