The Republican campaign against birthright citizenship is partially driven by the idea that undocumented immigrants simply run across the border to have children who will then be U.S. citizens. As Sen. Lindsey Graham put it last year:
“People come here to have babies,” he said. “They come here to drop a child. It's called "drop and leave." To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child's automatically an American citizen. That shouldn't be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”
Aside from the ugliness of Graham reducing actual human beings to nothing more than mechanical baby factories who can "drop a child" on cue, this is a really terrible way to try to secure citizenship or residency for yourself. A child cannot sponsor a relative for citizenship until they're 21.
Andrea Nill points to a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center showing that "an overwhelming majority of undocumented immigrants -- 91 percent -- who became the parents of U.S. citizens between March 2009 and March 2010 came to the U.S. before 2007."
Contrary to Graham's "drop and leave" theory, only 9 percent of undocumented immigrants had children shortly after arriving, and there's a distinct lack of evidence that any of them had children for that reason. Nill writes that these "findings pretty much invalidate the argument that is at the center of the birthright citizenship debate." That's actually not the only information in the Pew Survey that contradicts the views of restrictionists. There's also the news that the undocumented population increased slightly to 11.2 million by March 2010, after falling from 12 million to 11.1 million between 2007-2009:
Now the Obama administration has tried to take some credit for the decline by pointing to its high numbers of deportations and increased resources at the border. But because in the long-term border enforcement really does little to stem migration, the decline was more likely attributable to a struggling economy. The waning months of 2009 and early months of 2010, however, saw some economic growth. Maybe that's just a coincidence, but it also might explain the slight uptick in the undocumented population.
The data suggests a really shocking conclusion: People come to the U.S. to get jobs, not to have babies. That means that repealing birthright citizenship isn't likely to stem illegal immigration, because it doesn't alter the incentives that cause people to come here. It will, without a doubt, lead to higher numbers of undocumented immigrants and the creation of a new, nationless class of children within U.S. borders. If, on the other hand, you're trying to reduce the population of Latino citizens rather than the number of undocumented immigrants, repealing birthright citizenship is one route to take.
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