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Pearce, allies will ring in the New Year with birthright citizenship bill

Pearce, allies will ring in the New Year with birthright citizenship bill

The national spotlight that lit up Arizona when lawmakers passed SB1070 will be back sooner than some anticipated.

Sen. Russell Pearce and numerous out-of-state allies plan to unveil his birthright-citizenship bill during the first week of January in Washington, D.C. The model legislation will serve as a template for lawmakers in 14 states, including Arizona, which hope to force a U.S. Supreme Court case that would challenge the longstanding interpretation of the 14th Amendment and end the practice of granting automatic citizenship to children born on U.S. soil to illegal immigrant parents.

Daryl Metcalfe, a Pennsylvania state representative who is pushing the birthright-citizenship proposal in that state’s Legislature, said the model legislation will give anti-illegal immigration lawmakers a rallying point for the war against birthright citizenship and show unity among members of State Legislators for Legal Immigration, which is what the group of lawmakers is calling itself.

“First we have to have the language formulated,” said Metcalfe, a Republican from Cranberry Township, Penn. “Then you have the process of rolling that out to various legislators across the country that are interested in working on the rollout project and then bringing a number of us together to actually announce the final working product, the final language that’s come out of our efforts.”

The high-profile rollout likely will rile Arizona lawmakers and members of the state’s business community who wanted birthright citizenship to take a back seat during the 2011 session, at least until the Legislature passes a budget and a jobs bill. Some lawmakers claimed Pearce pledged to put birthright citizenship on hiatus until those priorities were out of the way, though Pearce disputes the claims.

“I hope it doesn’t distract Senator Pearce from what our primary objectives are this session, in terms of budget and economic,” said incoming Sen. John McComish. “The first week of January (is) a very busy time for us.”

Senate Democratic leader David Schapira said the press conference will be a distraction for lawmakers who should have higher priorities.

“It appears that the focus of the leadership of the Legislature is going to be on this issue instead of on economic develoment and job creation,” he said. “I’m waiting to hear about Pearce’s announcement of a press conference on economic development and job creation. That’s a priority right now.”

Pearce did not return messages seeking comment. But his stalwart ally in the House, Rep. John Kavanagh, said the unveiling wouldn’t distract from the more immediate tasks of balancing the budget and putting the economy back on track.

“We’ll file the bill early,” Kavanagh said. “My understanding is we want to put the budget and the jobs bill to bed before we move on to this. But it will be this session.”

Kavanagh, a Fountain Hills Republican, said the rollout will get some attention, but he doesn’t expect it to last long.

“I guess you can get a day (of coverage), but that’s hardly the 1070 tsunami,” he said.

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