"Ultimately, this is one step," said Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R), in an interview with TPM, "in the direction of moving our nation, and our states toward... applying the 14th Amendment correctly."
Metcalfe is the leader of the State Legislators for Legal Immigration. What he's trying to do with the birth certificates is called an interstate compact, a constitutional mechanism that allows two or more states to make a contract with each other. Such a compact would need the approval of Congress.
That's what Metcalfe and his supporters -- who come from at least five states, and, he says, up to 40 -- want to do: get the issue into Congress to force a discussion there.
"It's a very calculated first step," said Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and an author of the Arizona immigration law, at a press conference this week announcing the group's plans.
Human Rights Watch immediately condemned such an effort.
"Any proposal that would diminish equal protection under the law would be a major step backward," U.S. program director Alison Parker said in a statement. "Equal protection under law is a cornerstone of US and international law. States should reject this proposal as abhorrent to U.S. values."
Metcalfe admits the move is a means to an end, a way to get Congress talking about how we interpret the 14th Amendment. Asked what the separate birth certificates would do, practically speaking, he told TPM it would give the children of illegal immigrants important documentation as they begin their lives -- back in their home countries.