Anchor Babies aren't as big of a problem as people think
|A path to citizenship for Mother and Baby?|
Opposition to illegal immigration and "Anchor Babies" seem to be a cause that many if not most conservatives have lined up behind. I understand the local issues of border hospitals losing money from illegal immigrants in places like Arizona or Southern California. Nevertheless, the thought of a woman eight months pregnant risking her life and the life of her baby to hike miles across the Arizona desert so she can give birth in the United States seems quite unrealistic. My wife is seven months pregnant and she has a hard time walking around the block.
Cato came out in favor of not changing the constitution which has been interpreted to allow anyone born on US soil to be automatically a US citizen. In the days of easy travel, does it really make sense for a German tourist baby to automatically be given US citizenship? There are questions that would give me pause, but does it justify changing the Constitution?
The biggest problem that proponents of a constitutional change is the whole welfare issue. If an immigrant comes just to have a baby and then collect welfare benefits, it seems to me that is a problem with the welfare laws and not the Constitution. In fact, eliminate welfare benefits for new immigrants and the motivation disappears. That would not require a change of the constitution. Via Cato:
Pew did estimate that of the 4.3 million babies born here in 2008, 340,000 had at least one parent who was an illegal immigrant. It also found that "nearly half of unauthorized-immigrant households are couples with children."More
But how many "come here to have babies"? Not many. Jeffrey Passel, who co-authored the report, told me that "85 to 88 percent of the mothers have been in the U.S. for at least a year," and "a majority have been here at least three years."
Someone who has a child a year or three after arriving is not exactly in line with Graham's image of pregnant Mexicans wading the Rio Grande in search of the nearest maternity ward. At most, only 15 percent of the mothers arrived here in a mode of expectancy.
But even that modest figure overstates the alleged problem. The kids referred to in the study are those with at least one illegal parent, and many of those parents are married to legal residents. If one parent is a U.S. citizen and you're born on U.S. soil, you'd be a citizen even if Graham got his way. Only a portion of that 12 to 15 percent would be barred.
The more sober opponents of illegal immigration don't think birthright citizenship is much of a draw. When I called Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, he said, "It's probably one factor among many. Most people come because of better economic opportunities." Change the Constitution, and they'd keep coming.
Why are all these undocumented foreigners producing offspring on U.S. soil, if not because of birthright citizenship? Some obvious explanations: Because they live here, and because they tend to be of childbearing age, since older folks are less likely to trek through the desert for the privilege of harvesting watermelons.
But the chief reason is that having kids is what human beings do, wherever they are and whatever their immigration status. The odd thing would be if these newcomers weren't reproducing.
You don't need an incentive to get them to bear children, any more than you need artificial inducements to get college students to drink beer. Changing the citizenship rule would have little or no effect on the fertility of illegal immigrants.
Linda Chavez: The Case for Birthright Citizenship
WSJ asks: Should we keep birthright citizenship in the constitution?
Would Bobby Jindal be a US Citizen if they changed the Constitution?