The restrictionist Center for Immigration studies has published a study attempting to add a scholarly veneer to Texas Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert's "terror baby" threat, proving once again that there literally is no culture-war panic too stupid that some conservative think tank won't try to mainstream it. The first sentence of the "background" section of the report is laughably debunkable:
Observers have begun to focus on the fact that, with some frequency, pregnant women cross the border illegally with the specific intent to bear their children in the United States, thus gaining for the children the gift of citizenship and ultimately a legal foothold for the parents and siblings as well when the child is old enough (21 years of age) to file a petition on their behalf for permanent resident alien status.
In the real world, 91 percent of children born to undocumented immigrants in 2009 and 2010 were born to parents who came to the U.S. before 2007, indicating that "birthright tourism" is mostly a myth. Twenty-one years is a long time to avoid deportation while waiting to petition for a "legal foothold," and as Shikha Dahlmia noted yesterday, only about 4,000 people are ever even allowed to acquire citizenship that way every year.
But it is easy to envision an entirely different and chilling scenario. Imagine a young man born in the United States of non-immigrant parents and taken away at a very early age, reared in Waziristan, educated in Islamist madrassas and trained in the fundamentals of terror at one of the many camps in Southwestern Asia; someone who has flown under the radar of U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies and is therefore unknown to them. He would be entitled to walk into any American embassy or consulate worldwide, bearing a certified copy of his birth certificate and apply for — indeed, demand — a U.S. passport. That passport would entitle him to enter and reside in the United States whenever and wherever he chose, secretly harboring his hatred, an unknown sleeper agent of al Qaeda or any of the other multitude of terrorist organizations with an anti-Western bias and a violent anti-American agenda, waiting for the call to arms.
Sure, among the things that would never arouse the suspicion of intelligence agencies is some guy who's been off the grid for 20 years in the FATA, having never lived in the United States, and just happened to walk into a U.S. Embassy somewhere with his birth certificate and demand a passport despite having no record of their travel there as an American citizen. This person might as well go on Facebook, post a picture of themselves holding an AK-47 and set their status to "Jihad, bitches!"
Moreover, why is the more likely (but still rare) possibility of a naturalized immigrant or a American born to native or immigrant parents here who goes abroad to train with terrorists and somehow manages return while avoiding the detection or attention of the entire U.S. intelligence and law enforcement apparatus any less chilling? What exactly, does birthright citizenship have to do with this scenario at all?
CIS allowed the author of this report, "a retired government employee with many years of experience in immigration administration, law enforcement, and national security matters," to write it under a pseudonym, which is understandable because it's really embarrassing.