Stemming the tide of illegal immigration -- and plugging the so-called "anchor-baby loophole" -- came up as top priorities during a radio debate Friday between Republican Senate candidates Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee.
The on-air Q&A was the first head-to-head event since the two men emerged from the May 8 GOP convention, having defeated three-term Sen. Bob Bennett. The two now face off in a June 22 primary.
Both Bridgewater and Lee agree that children born to parents who are in the country illegally should not get instant citizenship, even though the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution -- ratified in 1868 as part of post-Civil War reconstruction -- says as much.
"Just because you were born here, you are not automatically a citizen," said Lee, an attorney who campaigns on the theme of returning the country to its constitutional roots.
"For someone to be entitled to that citizenship they need to be born to citizens or lawful residents or aliens involved in active U.S. military service," Lee said.
He voiced support for HR 1868, proposed federal legislation that seeks to alter the present interpretation of the 14th Amendment.
Sponsored by former Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., HR 1868 was first introduced in April 2009 and has not been acted upon.
While Bridgewater did not get the chance to address the issue on the air during the debate mediated by K-Talk show host Mills Crenshaw,, he said later he also opposes birthright citizenship. If ending the current practice cannot be done statutorily, Bridgewater said he supports amending the Constitution.
"The 14th Amendment was written at a time when there were no immigration laws per se and we had an end to slavery it was designed to address," Bridgewater said. "Should we continue with that policy? That debate needs to happen and I want to engage in it if elected."
Both candidates also railed against the federal government for failing to address the immigration issue. They supported Arizona's right to pass its recent controversial immigration legislation, though they stopped short of saying Utah should follow suit.
Supporters of HR 1868 include NumbersUSA, a group founded by Roy Beck to slow the flow of immigrants into the country. Utah's 3rd District Congressman, Jason Chaffetz, also supports the measure.
Sam Granato, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, said that America's immigration system needs repair but bristled at the idea of overturning birthright citizenship.
"It's one of the most un-American ideas I've ever heard," said Granato, whose grandparents on both sides immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s.
"A child born on this soil becomes an American citizen -- our country has not been about ripping that away," Granato added. "This has always been the land of hope, dreams and opportunity."
Brian Barnard, a Salt Lake City-based civil rights attorney, considered the concept downright distasteful.
"That kind of protectionism, that fear of foreigners, is simply contrary to our concepts of democracy," Barnard said "We are a country of immigrants, founded on the idea that foreigners come here looking for a better life."
"'Disturbing' is not a strong enough word for how I feel about this idea." Barnard added.
Here's what the candidates said about:
The Patriot Act
Bridgewater said it should have a sunset and he would not vote for its renewal
Lee said it made sense immediately after 9/11, but some of it tinkers with the 4th Amendment and that gives him pause.
Mandatory death sentence for terrorists
Bridgewater: "We are a nation of laws and have to follow those laws. Those who enact terrorism against our nation should be deemed as enemy combatants and tried in military tribunals."
Lee: "Yes, anyone who does something like that against this country should be executed, should be subject to the death penalty and I would fight to make sure that happens."
Challenging the president and Congress on health care
Bridgewater said he believes the mandate to purchase health insurance will be found unconstitutional. He hopes to form bipartisan coalition to repeal the legislation.
Lee said he predicts that the first act of the 2011 Congress will be to repeal "Obamacare." He intends to start defunding its implementation immediately.
No Child Left Behind
Bridgewater believes the education system is broken and says that NCLB is not the answer. He advocates allowing states to act as their own labs for innovative education solutions.
Lee said that no true conservative would vote for NCLB. He views it as an intrusion on one of the last bastions of state autonomy and said that "our children deserve better."
Source: K-TALK debate
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.