There have been numerous debates about “birthright” citizenship in recent weeks. As the Heritage Foundation has pointed out, the claim that the 14th Amendment confers citizenship on the children of visitors or illegal aliens is mistaken. Neither the text nor the legislative history supports such an interpretation.
Perspective is needed. How many other countries have birthright citizenship? How many such children are there in the United States, and how much is this costing us? The Center for Immigration Studies has just released a study by Jon Feere that gives some answers. The report didn’t get the attention it should have -- perhaps because it has some very inconvenient truths.
Feere’s research found that the “overwhelmingly majority of the world’s countries do not offer automatic citizenship to everyone born within their borders.” Only 30 countries out of 194 offer automatic citizenship, CIS confirmed. Of the 31 counties listed on the International Monetary Fund’s list of advanced economies, only the United States and Canada grant automatic birthright citizenship.
No country in Europe, a continent many liberals often cite for its supposedly superior views on everything from government health care to high tax rates, grants automatic citizenship. The trend has been toward eliminating it in the few countries that grant it. Australia, Ireland, India, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom have all jettisoned this policy.
CIS estimates there are 300,000 to 400,000 children born to illegal immigrants in the U.S. each year. There were 2.3 million such children in 2003; there were four million in 2008 – and that number doesn’t include children who are older than 18 or who are married. Texas says that between 60,000 to 65,000 of the children born in Texas every year have parents who are not citizens or 16% of the total births in the state -- 542,152 from 2001 to 2009.
And the hundreds of thousands of such children are no accident. Many of them are the result of a deliberate effort by illegal aliens and foreign tourists to exploit our law and use these children to keep themselves in the country. Such children provide access to welfare benefits that would otherwise be off-limit to the parents and can “ultimately initiate chain migration of the child’s extended family and in-laws,” the CIS study notes.
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