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  • The Costs of Birthright Citizenship

    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.

    Take federal welfare programs. Although illegal aliens normally are barred from accessing them, they can obtain benefits such as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and food stamps on behalf of their U.S.-born children. Since cash welfare benefits and food stamps are fungible within a household, there is no question that welfare spending directed at the children of illegal immigrants will also benefit the parents.  It is also quite likely that a substantial portion of the medical costs of births to illegal aliens are funded through the Medicaid program.

    CIS estimates that 40% of illegal alien households nationwide receive some type of welfare despite federal prohibitions. That rate is even higher in states with larger numbers of illegal aliens such as New York (49%), California (48%), and Texas (44%).

    Contrast that very high rate with the fact that only 19% of households headed by a native-born citizen receive welfare benefits. CIS cites data released by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services showing that the children of illegal aliens in the county received $50 million in welfare benefits just in February 2010. So much for federal efforts to bar illegal aliens from receiving taxpayer-funded public assistance.

    As for chain migration, CIS points out that when a child becomes an adult, he can “legalize his parents, and also to bring into the United States his foreign-born spouse and any foreign-born siblings. The sponsored spouse can, in turn, sponsor her own foreign-born parents and siblings, and the siblings can, in turn sponsor their own foreign–born spouses, and so on, generating a virtually never-ending and always-expanding migration chain.” This type of immigration is almost uncontrollable. It “accounts for most of the nation’s growth in immigration levels,” and it continues to grow every year “because of the ever-expanding migration chains that operate independently of any economic downturns or labor needs.”

    According to CIS, America’s citizenship policy has also led to the growth of a “birth tourism” industry since the State Department is “not permitted to deny a woman a temporary visitor visa simply because she is pregnant.” This may be a relatively minor problem relative to the hundreds of thousands of children born to illegal immigrants who reside in the country. But it illustrates how some foreigners who don’t even live in the U.S. are taking advantage of this policy. The fact that it can exist at all even on a limited scale is very troubling.

    The Tucson Medical Center in Arizona, for example, “actively recruits in Mexico” for expectant mothers and offers them a “birth package.” Three California Chinese-owned “baby care centers” recruit foreign mothers to give them the ability to have their babies in the United States and “take advantage” of the law according to the owners (who started the business after coming to the U.S. to have their own child). Turkish doctors and hotel owners (including the Marmara Hotel in Manhattan) have set up a birth tourism business that has “reportedly arrang[ed] the U.S. birth of 12,000 Turkish children since 2003” in order to obtain U.S. citizenship because, as one of the Turkish mothers said, “American citizenship has so many advantages.”

    Birthright citizenship is not mandated by the 14th Amendment and the Supreme Court has never held that children born of individuals who are in the United States illegally are citizens — only that the children of individuals who are born to legal permanent residents are citizens. Conferring citizenship on those whose parents are here illegally is a policy that has developed almost by default by the executive branch, with no deliberation by Congress through the normal legislative process used to decide important public policy issues.

    “Americans are justifiably upset with a policy that has become standard practice without their approval,” CIS notes. Small wonder, since not only are our laws being taken advantage of by those who are seeking to evade our normal immigration rules, but the economic costs to the country and the average citizen-taxpayer are enormous.

    Cross-posted from National Review Online

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to The Costs of Birthright Citizenship

    1. MJF, CT says:

      Just figure out how many illegal's in your city have moved in, had kids and are sending them to your public schools. Every child of illegal parents suck up resources of one kind or another. In my city, it costs $23k to educate a child in the public system.

      My daughter came home the other day and told me that there aren't enough books to go around (high school, sophomore year) so they cannot take the books out of the classroom. Homework is to be done in class and there are no exceptions.

    2. Andrew, VA says:

      Just because other countries don't allow birth citizenship doesn't mean the Untied States should follow their example. Heritage often talks about how unique America is and often promotes our country's "exceptionalism."

      Well, here's an opportunity for America to be exceptional — by being one of the few countries that allow birthright citizenship. It seems to me you're going after the weakest party in the debate — the kids — and that's wrong, especially from a pro-life perspective.

      Believe me, if babies could choose to have parents arrive here legally they would.

      But we know that can't happen. We can't chose our parents. We have to make do with the ones (or, more often today, one) that we have. So let's create an immigration policy that doesn't pick on the kids, OK? They're innocents in this battle.

    3. Billie says:

      How sad it is, that people use their own freedom of choice upon their own flesh and blood for their dangerous, selfish, endeavor, then exploit their children for sympathy.

      I understand the rulers of Mexico are doing NOTHING TO HELP but actually encourage this illegality as the president of America invites and protects it.

      Except the elderly whom have paid dearly throughout their life in America, no one should get anything for free when it comes to individual costs. Responsible rules teach personal responsibility! NO GOVERNMENT NEEDED!!

    4. Jon ,NM says:

      Andrew- we have an immigration policy,its called apply for citizenship the right way. Many of our parents had to struggle to get here, and worked liked dogs so they could have a better life for their families.

      All you have to do now is come here illegally have a kid and your a citizen , under a (wrong) interpretation of the 14th amendmant.

      To me that's a solemn screw you to our ancestors and the legal immigrants in this country, who went through hell to get citizenship. Why do we need to cater to people who have broken our law, and are freeloading off of us.

      These people also put a huge burden on hospitals who have to deliver them and are often sent home with a healthy amount of baby supplies at the citizen taxpayer's expense.

      Other countries don't have birthright citizenship bnecause they are smart enough to realize unchecked illegal immigration undermines nations.Some recent examples: Italy, Greece, France, United Kingdom, Austrailia, South Korea, and even to an extent the People's Republic of China.

    5. dannyroberts Phoenix says:

      unfortunately in our country at this moment in time, the federal government is the problem, they, for what ever their reasons are,

      do not want a secure border. they are very upset about the idea of enforcing the rule of law.hopefully some time soon , decent law abiding citizens will seek out leaders that would put America first. we help people in need all over the world and get very little thanks for it.

      God Bless America.

    6. MJF, CT says:

      Andrew, that was a typical, Liberal point of view. It's the same thinking that got us into the situations that we are in today. Try to remember that Conservatives don't parade their kids around to push a point, nor do we lay on them the mark that allows laws to be twisted to suit favor them. The Statist and the Liberal does this to bring guilt and wrench the hearts of other into their way of thinking. When it comes to the Constitution and the law, everyone is (should be) the same…. EQUAL!

    7. Pingback: The Costs of Birthright Citizenship - Whitley County Patriots

    8. Leah, OR says:

      There are so many things wrong here I don't know where to start. First of all, for the one person who dared to oppose the most common sentiment on here, Andrew. Kudos. Secondly, MJF, your out and out biased statements about the Liberals and statists is a complete crock. All you have to do is look at your first statement talking about the inconvience your daughter is experiencing at her underfunded school. You used your kid right there to argue in favor of your point that all those pesky illegal immigrants are costing us.

      Going on to the final point I will make: most people in the U.S. are children of 'illegal' immigrants. This country was founded by them. Do I think people should come here illegally and pop out a kid to stay? No. However, I doubt that eliminating birthright citizenship is going to prevent people from coming here. In fact, it'll be a major inconvience for the legal citizens whose primary proof of citizenship is their birth certificate.

      We should be looking at how to fix our immigration policies so they're both fair and reasonable because as is they're so tight and it is so difficult to come to this country legally, many feel that it is easier to sneak in rather than jumping through the higher and higher hoops. One final thing: not all immigrants are leechs in society. In fact without many of them, our economy wouldn't be as it is now. They're more prone to spend money and let's face it, do jobs the average American wouldn't.

      What happens will happen but be fair in your judgements and try to look at it from all points of view before you go off on some rant or another.

      P.S. Blaming the government as a whole or giving the America is so great speech gets us nowhere. Focus on how to fix the problem, people, pointing fingers or inflating an already inflated ego does nothing.

    9. Paul, CA says:

      Leah, OR you answered your own question "Do I think people should come here illegally and pop out a kid to stay? No" So to fix this problem we do what 164 countries out of 194 do and don't allow birthright citizenship.

    10. Victor says:

      I fear that the author is using liberalism to explain conservatism. Interpreting the 14th Amendment (and the Constitution itself) using international legislative history is flawed. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment states, in part, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

      I don't want our Constitution interpreted using international law. Explain what this mean using American law.

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