In 1970, six percent of all births in the United States were to illegal aliens. In 2002, that figure was 23 percent. In 1994, 36 percent of the births paid for by Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid, were to illegals. That figure has doubtless increased in the intervening 12 years as the rate of illegal immigration has risen.
Any child born in the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen. He or she is instantly eligible for panoply of social services, food stamps and other forms of aid. When the child reaches the age of 21, he can petition to have his parents and siblings declared permanent residents.
The so-called "anchor baby" phenomenon is a hidden trap door beneath any guest worker program, because a significant number of guest workers will have babies while in the United States and will thus elude any effort to send them home. (There are other problems with guest worker schemes: the difficulty of enforcement, the creation of permanently alienated subgroups such as Europe has created of its Muslim immigrants, and the problem of uprooting even the non-citizen children of guest workers who have spent years in the United States.)
I happen to be a moderate on immigration. I believe that Republicans should tread carefully on reform lest they be perceived as anti-Hispanic. With the country divided so evenly between the two parties, Republicans cannot afford to alienate 12 percent of the electorate (and a group that is religiously and culturally open to the Republican message). While anecdotal evidence certainly suggests that the conservative grass roots are deeply agitated about immigration, their concerns must be addressed with finesse so as not to walk the party into a political buzz saw. That much having been said, here are some reforms that go beyond what Congress is currently considering.