States seek to tackle birthright citizenship, illegal immigration |

States seek to tackle birthright citizenship, illegal immigration  |

By Jeremy Redmon

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

State lawmakers from Georgia and several other states are gathering in Washington this week for the announcement of a new front opening up in the war over illegal immigration.

They are taking aim at the 14th Amendment, which grants U.S. citizenship to children born here even if their parents are in the country illegally. The lawmakers disagree with that practice, complaining illegal immigrants and their children are sapping taxpayer-funded services and attracting more illegal immigrants to the United States.

At a news conference scheduled for Wednesday morning, the group plans to unveil model state legislation to halt what they call “the misapplication of the 14th Amendment.” Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican state lawmaker from Pennsylvania who is leading the effort, declined to discuss specifics before the news conference.

But observers familiar with his group’s efforts said they could include legislation aimed at withholding state benefits and services from children born here to illegal immigrants.

State Sen. Jack Murphy, who is spearheading efforts in Georgia’s Legislature to crack down on illegal immigration, confirmed he is planning to meet Tuesday with Metcalfe and other state lawmakers in Washington and attend the news conference Wednesday. Murphy, a Republican co-chairman of a special legislative committee studying illegal immigration, has expressed concerns about birthright citizenship in the past. But he said Monday he has not seen the proposed legislation and has not decided whether he will introduce it in Georgia. He also indicated the states face legal constraints in dealing with the constitutional issue.

“I am going up there for information purposes only at this time,” he said.

Murphy is traveling to Washington at the invitation of Metcalfe, who heads a group calling itself State Legislators for Legal Immigration. Metcalfe said lawmakers from 40 states have signed on as members of the group.

“Everyone who is coming to the press conference is supportive of the concept of ending the illegal alien invasion and ending the incentives that attract illegal aliens onto our soil,” Metcalfe said.

The heads of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center of Georgia said any attempts by the states to take on the 14th Amendment could meet with costly legal challenges.

“This state legislation is strategically a way to push the issue through the Supreme Court,” said Helen Kim Ho, executive director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center of Georgia. “That is going to be borne on the taxpayers’ backs.”

Critics also argue birthright citizenship is a federal issue. But Metcalfe said he has consulted constitutional experts and is confident his plan is legal. Among the people who are scheduled to attend the news conference Wednesday are John Eastman, who teaches constitutional law at the Chapman University School of Law, and Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state-elect and a former Bush administration lawyer who helped draft Arizona’s new law aimed at illegal immigration.


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