There were an estimated 350,000-400,00 children born in the United States last year to mothers who are illegal immigrants. As a result of the prevailing interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution each of these children are considered to be United States citizens.
To put that in perspective, that is about 1 out of every 10 births in this country!
Can you imagine anyone who voted for the 14th Amendment in 1866 at the federal or state level thinking that we would be conferring citizenship to this many as a result of this provision?
Birthright citizenship is extremely rare in most countries. In fact, Canada and the United States are the only countries with advanced economies that recognize it.
It is estimated that there are now at least 4 million minor children of illegal immigrants who are U.S. citizens. At least another 1 million children were brought into the country with their parents illegally.
It is a legitimate question to ask whether this policy (law? constitutional provision?) makes any sense today.
The Compounding Costs of Birthright Citiizenship
The costs of this policy are enormous.
Consider just the cost of K-12 education for these children and the burden this is placing on school budgets across the country. With average costs nationally approaching $13,000 per pupil, the illegal immigrant students are adding over $6.5 billion to school costs nationally.
Each anchor baby is also eligible for welfare which is guaranteed to U.S. citizens. As a result, their entire families benefit from our welfare dollars with food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance and welfare cash assistance.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, 71% of illegal immigrant Hispanic families with children were receiving some form of welfare assistance in 2009. That number was 57% when including all immigrant households. By comparison, only 39% of households headed by native born citizens were receiving any welfare assistance.
It is without question that the birthright citizen policy has proven to be an enormous incentive magnet for illegal immigration. It is a natural human desire to want to provide a better life for your children than what you had growing up. The people who come to the United States are coming to better their own lives but they are also clearly motivated for a better future for their children.
The decision to come to the United States is made even easier when you know that the American taxpayer is going to provide you with the money to help pay for the support of your children.
The longer term effects of this policy are even more insidious.
Due to the fact that you have minor children who are U.S. citizens living in households with parents who are illegal immigrants, those who want to enforce the immigration laws against illegals are called "heartless" because they want to "break up these families". As a result, each birth further undermines any attempts to fix the problem. We just keep digging ourselves into a deeper and deeper hole.
These U.S.-born children of illegal aliens are also eligible to sponsor the immigration of family members once they come of age. At 18, an “anchor baby” can sponsor an overseas spouse and unmarried children of his own. At full majority age at 21, he can sponsor parents and siblings.
The bottom line is that the anchor baby policy sets in motion compounding effects that create multitudes of adverse impacts that further undermine our laws and any hope for a reasonable and rational immigration policy going forward.
As I have pointed out before, it is not that the United States is not already the most welcoming nation for legal immigrants on the entire planet.
- Although the United States has less than 5% of the world's population, 20% of all international migrants reside in the United States.
- 45 million immigrants currently live in the United States. This is 4 times as many who live in any other country in the world.
- Approximately 1 million immigrants are granted legal permanent residency status in the United States per year. 10.7 million were granted permanent status over the last 10 ten years.
What is most troubling to American voters is the fact that all of this should have been preventable if we had simply enforced current immigration law over the last 30 years.
What Does The 14th Amendment Say?
That brings us to the 14th Amendment. What does it actually say?
Amendment XIV, Section 1, Clause 1:
"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." (emphasis added)
That seems fairly clear except for the words I underlined above..."and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."
Is a child born in the United States to parents who are illegal immigrants "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States" when those parents are unlawfully present in our country?
This is the crux of the argument that is made by those (Donald Trump included) that believe that the 14th Amendment does not automatically confer birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. At a minimum, they believe that Congress has the right to define what "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" means. It has already been accepted that this means that children born to foreign diplomats do not gain U.S. birthright citizenship nor do members of certain Indian tribes.
I would further argue that the very actions of the federal government in not enforcing the immigration laws means that illegal immigrants that are here have effectively not been "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States" by the consistent failure of our government to enforce the country's jurisdictional borders. How can an illegal immigrant be considered to be subject to the jurisdiction of our country if they are here illegally but our government is doing nothing about it?
Trump and Polling
I found it interesting that in the most recent polling data I could find on the issue of birthright citizenship (Rasmussen, April 20, 2015), 54% of the respondents agreed that children of illegal aliens born in the United States should not "automatically become a citizen of the United States" compared to 38% who believed they should.
You can say what you want about Donald Trump but his polling numbers are where they are because he is striking a chord with a large segment of the American electorate. Look no further than those polling numbers on birthright citizenship and this was before Trump elevated the issue in public discussion.
Trump understands that anchor babies are an anchor around our necks if we are to have any chance to fix the immigration system.
We likely cannot (and should not) do anything about the past but we surely should not continue to compound the problem going forward be it by judicial challenge, legislation or constitutional amendment to remove birthright citizenship. I would advise moving forward on all three fronts to cover all the bases.
It is time to remove this anchor from around our necks.