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."

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?


  1. I disagree 100%. The 14th Amendment to the United States was never intended to allow this practice to go unchecked. It is fair to say that legislators of that day never fathomed the problem our nation faces today of an unbridled invasion of what are essentially refugees from Mexico.

    The fundamental issue is a loophole that needs to be addressed. It is the issue of that violates the rule of law. We, unlike our neighbors to the south, are a nation of law and order. Where there is an injustice, that injustice must be addressed.

    Giving citizenship to a child born to parents who have entered the country illegally is illogical. The most fundamental notion of a sovereign nation is the right and power to know and regulate who enters its borders. A person who crosses that border without permission is much like a pathogen that enters a body. It has no place in the body and is rejected as foreign to the body. Just as a medal winning athlete loses his medal because his win was not valid, not just and simple void, so is an illegal's status in the United States. Sure you got here, but that gives the illegal no right to stay.

    Since the illegal parents' status in the country is invalid, so should be the status of any child born born to them. The sovereign onto whose territory these illegals have trespassed never had the opportunity to approve their entry. The sovereign becomes a rape victim who unwillingly becomes pregnant from the attack. Since the parents violated the sovereign's borders, they cannot expect to be entitled to protection or given rights under that nations laws. Furthermore, since the sovereign was an unwilling participant in the illegal parents' violation of its borders, the citizenship now granted to a child of an illegal under the 14th amendment of the US Constitution is logically void. This wrong needs to be corrected.

    Now that being said, the unintended consequence of the 14th amendment caan only be corrected through the amendment process. In the current political environment of the United States where many have given up reason to their own whims and arbitrary principles, an amendment of this type will be a difficult task indeed.

    What you discuss here about welfare is but a by product or consequence of what was not foreseen with the enactment of the 14th amendment. Another consequence is the idea that the illegal parents benefit vicariously from their decision to illegally cross an international border. Also, the legitimate citizens of the sovereign who pay taxes that support this new and, in my opinion, illegitimate citizen are faced with the dilema of doing what is logical and just--deportation--and what is makes themselves "feel" good--taking no action. Unfortunately, a sovereign that takes no action will soon find itself faced with many unintended nor desired consequences. These range from an unsustainable drain on the economy in the form of supporting the parents to a shift in the fundamental nature of the country (language, culture, values, core beliefs) that make it unique.

    Whether a person crosses the border with the intent to give birth to an "anchor baby" or has the child after years of illegally residing in the country, the result is the same.

    In conclusion, this is not simply and issue over welfare. It goes right to the heart of what makes a nation and the power its citizens have to regulate what goes on in their own borders. Most importantly for this constitutional republic is the respect for the rule of law.

  2. I understand and have heard all of these points. I don’t expect most conservatives to agree with me. However, I do believe that I am right.

    I understand the need for law and order. But laws are based upon morality, not the other way around. Robbery is wrong even without a law. Murder is against the law, because killing is wrong, not just because it is against the law. I’m going to have to hear more than, “It’s against the law”.

    One question I ask myself is “Would it be wrong if there were no law?” If there were no law restricting immigration and someone came across the border to work, would it be wrong?

    In the case of the United States of America, we went hundreds of years with absolutely no immigration laws at all (amazing but true). The fourteenth amendment is a special case. You are correct that it was to deal with slaves and settling the question once and for all that offspring of slaves born in this country are full US citizens. However, at the time, illegal immigration was a moot point because immigration restrictions were not invented. Every child by default was a citizen and anchor baby. There was no need to put that in.

    That interpretation was tested just a few years later after the US started restricting citizenship for temporary Chinese workers in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The supreme court decided 7-2 that the alien workers children are automatically US citizens in the case U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark . The supreme court upheld the interpretation citing the 14th amendment. Horace Gray wrote for the majority. The court found that the only persons Congress intended to exclude from birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment were children born to diplomats, Indians, and children of an occupying enemy.

    Finally, it is good economics. Adam Smith, Fredrich Hayek, Frederich Bastiat and a whole host of econmists of all stripes all affirm and the facts back them that relative freedom of movement makes a country richer, just as do freedom of capital or freedom of trade. Restrictions in trade, capital and movement always lead to black markets and other perverse anomaly.. That is exactly what we see with US immigration policy which makes it virtually illegal for low skilled workers who don’t have a family member to pull them in.

    So do not favor illegal immigration. I do making favor making it easier for people to come to this country who want to work. I don’t want our precious border patrol resources trying to track down some guy who wants to work in a restaurant.

  3. You seem to arguing for open borders rather than the point at hand, anchor babies. Should we give citizenship to the children of those who cross the border illegally?

    Whether we should have open borders is an argument for another day. But as to that topic I will simply say that I would strongly oppose the idea and that I prefer an Amero-centric immigration policy that puts the United States interests first. I do not believe the United States to be the world’s dingy. I don’t care who wants to come here to work. The fact is everyone would like to be here. I would like to see a policy that brings in the brightest and the best from the world. More importantly, we must be able to determine and regulate who enters our county. I also believe you would be hard pressed to find another nation that didn’t look to their interest’s first as well.

    The SCOTUS case you cite only goes to prove my point that today’s problems were not envisioned in the 1700 and 1800s. There was no immigration law at the formation of the United States because there was little need. There was an ocean that separated us from most of civilization. To the west was a vast wilderness. The American Indian population was not scurrying across the border to gain jobs and citizenship for their children in the US so they could reap the benefits thereof. Later, immigration was encouraged. We wanted to populate this great land so as reduce the threat that some other power would dominate it. Nevertheless, we did not want people to enter the country willy nilly and a law regarding immigration was passed. In 1875 when the first immigration law was passed, the southwest region that is so problematic today, was sparsely populated. Also, Mexico was not in the desperate state it is in today that would cause Mexicans to leave their own land, people, language and culture simply to seek work. An as I mentioned in my first comment, it will require a constitutional amendment to rectify the problem facing the United States today.

    The SCOTUS holding in U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark does not address a case of a child born in the United States to illegal parents. The holding does not mention anything about the parents entering the country illegally nor does it mention their status in the United States remained in jeopardy. In fact, it seems to insinuate the opposite.

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  6. “His father and mother were persons of Chinese descent, and subjects of the Emperor of China; they were at the time of his birth domiciled residents of the United States, having previously established and still enjoying a permanent domicil and residence therein at San Francisco”

    The case of anchor babies is entirely distinct from the situation in U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark. On a side note, the dissent opinion makes a good point that is applicable today regarding a weakness in the 14th amendment. It is not prudent to grant citizenship to a child born to foreign parents who happen to be traveling through the United States. That child may grow up to have no other connection to the United States, yet he could run and be elected president. Not likely to happen, right?

    Although part of the illegal immigration argument and not the anchor baby issue, you brought up the issue of laws that stop crime malum prohibitum. First and formost, we are learning that illegal immigration is not a victimless crime. Criminals are entering the country at will to hold-up and rob those restaurants the humble immigrant you mentioned is coming to work at. And yes, illegal immigration is a burden on tax paying residents. Second, are you trying to say that you would strip us of the power to create laws that prohibit crimes malum prohibitum? Would that mean sex with a minor would be tolerated? Would illegal drug use be ok even though other societies that have allowed it have seen negative effects? To say that malum in se crimes are based on morality isn’t entirely true. Sure there are crimes like murder and rape that are obvious. But is forcing you wife to sleep with you ever rape? Well that depends on your view of morality (it is against my morals just so that is clear). What about an honor killing? It is ok in some countries…why not here? So the statement about morality begs the question whose morality are we talking about.


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