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U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants targeted by activists

July 13, 2009 |  2:01 pm

Camp vigilance

Activists in the United States are pushing for a California ballot initiative that would end public benefits for illegal immigrants, cut off welfare payments for their children and impose new rules for birth certificates.

Teresa Watanabe reports from the border-watch post the activists call Camp Vigilance.

Supporters of the initiative, recently unveiled by San Diego political activist Ted Hilton, hope to challenge the citizenship of children born in the United States to parents who are here illegally.

The 14th Amendment states that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside." Backers of the initiative argue that illegal residents are not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States and that, as a result, their U.S.-born children should not be citizens.

As The Times reported Friday, California welfare officials estimate that cutting off payments to illegal immigrants for their U.S.-born children could save about $640 million annually.

The issue is mobilizing partisans on both sides of the border.

A protest outside Mexico City's American embassy earlier this year that coincided with Barack Obama's first official visit to the country highlighted the problem that some families face. Undocumented parents say they have been separated from their children by U.S immigration policy, with many children who are U.S. citizens remaining in el norte after the parents are deported.

Families who say they have been divided by immigration rules delivered a letter for Obama.

Some said they had been deported from the U.S., or left out of fear of deportation because they didn't have visas, but had children who were born in the U.S. and were U.S. citizens.

Signs read: 'Obama! Immigration reform! Now!'

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Photo: Ted Hilton speaks with Evelyn Miller at a Fourth of July barbecue organized by anti-illegal-immigration groups at Camp Vigilance near the U.S.-Mexico border. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times