Steve Chapman

Supporters of the change regard birthright citizenship as an irresistible magnet for foreigners to sneak in. But the effect is vastly exaggerated.

One study cited in Peter Brimelow's 1996 anti-immigration screed, "Alien Nation," found that 15 percent of new Hispanic mothers whose babies were born in southern California hospitals said they came over the border to give birth, with 25 percent of that group saying they did so to gain citizenship for the child.

But this evidence actually contradicts the claim. It means that 96 percent of these women were not lured by the desire to have an "anchor baby."

That makes perfect sense. The value of a citizen child is too remote to compete with the other attractions that draw people to come illegally -- such as jobs and opportunity unavailable in their native countries.

True, an undocumented adult can be sponsored for a resident visa by a citizen child -- but not till the kid reaches age 21. To imagine that Mexicans are risking their lives crossing the border in 2010 to gain legal status in 2031 assumes they put an excessive weight on the distant future.

Nor are the other alleged freebies very enticing. Most of the few that are available to undocumented foreigners, such as emergency room care and public education for children, don't require them to have a U.S. citizen child. Illegal immigrant parents are ineligible for welfare, Medicaid, food stamps and the like. They can be deported.

Barring citizenship to their newborn babies wouldn't make these families pack up and go home. It would just put the kids into a legal jeopardy that impedes their assimilation into American society -- without appreciably diminishing the number of people going over, under, around or through the border fence.

Punishing innocents without accomplishing anything useful? The opponents of birthright citizenship need an anchor in reality.

Steve Chapman blogs daily at To find out more about Steve Chapman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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