Myth and fact regarding “anchor babies” collided last week after a new report.
National and state lawmakers have said that hundreds of thousands of “illegal aliens” cross the U.S. border to give birth to children in an effort to obtain citizenship. Some lawmakers’ solution is to repeal the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides citizenship to any child born in the United States.
A new report from the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan wing of the Pew Research Center, found that only 9 percent of couples in which one member was an undocumented immigrant had children during their first year in the United States.
In July 2010, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, “People come here to have babies.”
Graham, a Southern Baptist, said, “They come here to drop a child. It’s called ‘drop and leave.’ To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child’s automatically an American citizen. That shouldn’t be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”
He said he was considering a constitutional amendment.
At the end of January 2011, Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced legislation to amend the Constitution in order to block automatic citizenship to children of unauthorized immigrants.
“Citizenship is a privilege and only those who respect our immigration laws should be allowed to enjoy its benefits,” said Paul.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced at the first of January a bill to close the so-called “anchor baby loophole.” The bill has 46 sponsors.
“The current practice of extending U.S. citizenship to hundreds of thousands of ‘Anchor Babies’ every year arises from the misapplication of the Constitution’s citizenship clause and creates an incentive for illegal aliens to cross our border,” said King. “The ‘Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011’ ends this practice by making it clear that a child born in the United States to illegal alien parents does not meet the standard for birthright citizenship already established by the Constitution.”
“It’s long overdue for Congress to stop the racket of bringing pregnant women into this country to give birth, receive free medical care and then call their babies U.S. citizens entitled to all American rights and privileges plus generous handouts,” wrote Phyllis Schlafly, long-time religious right leader, who supports King’s bill. “Between 300,000 and 400,000 babies are born to illegal aliens in the United States every year, at least 10 percent of all births.”
The Pew report put the undocumented’s percentage of all births at 8 percent, not “at least 10 percent.” It also found that only 9 percent of undocumented workers had children during their first year in the United States.
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The Pew report’s numbers show that 91 percent of births take place after an undocumented individual has lived here for at least one year. Moreover, the report showed that 61 percent of undocumented worker families did not have a birth until living here for five or six years.
According to an October 2010 Pew Research Center survey, registered voters are evenly split over amending the Constitution to end citizenship as a birthright.
“A majority of Republican respondents (67 percent) favor amending the Constitution, compared with about half of independents (48 percent) and a minority of Democrats (30 percent),” found the survey.
The Pew Hispanic Center report also found that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States dropped to 11.2 million in 2010 from 12 million in 2007.
“The decline in the size of the unauthorized immigrant population from its peak in 2007 appears to be driven mainly by a decrease in the number of such immigrants from Mexico,” said the report. “In 2007, there were an estimated 7 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico. In 2010, the number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants had declined to 6.5 million.”
Pew found that 6.5 million, or 58 percent, of unauthorized immigrants were Mexicans. Other Latin American nations accounted for 23 percent of the population. Asians made up 11 percent, compared to Europeans and Canadians at 4 percent and Africans and other countries at 3 percent.
Pew reported unauthorized immigrants made up 8 million of the nation’s workforce, down from 8.4 million in 2007. Undocumented workers made up 5.2 percent of the labor force last year.
Deportations of undocumented individuals stood at 400,000 in 2009. More than 70 percent of the deportees were from Mexico.
Despite Pew’s findings that dispute the claim that hundreds of thousands of immigrants are illegally crossing the border to give birth to babies, anti-immigrant activists and lawmakers still hold to the myth that birthright citizenship is a “major incentive” for immigrants and a real problem.
The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) expressed its opposition to the announced plans of state legislatures to repeal the 14th Amendment.
“These proposals run counter to American values and would not help solve the broken immigration system,” said the LIRS. “They directly target newborn babies – the most vulnerable among us.”
“States should not pass harmful immigration legislation that further exacerbates the suffering that families and communities already face,” said LIRS’ president and CEO, Linda Hartke.