Approximately 350,000 to 400,000 children are born to illegal immigrants in the U.S. each year. Due to current policy, all automatically become U.S. citizens, Center for Immigration Studies legal policy analyst Jon Feere testified before a House panel Wednesday.
“To put this in perspective this means that one out of 10 births in the U.S. is to an illegal immigrant mother,” Freere said at a House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security hearing titled “Birthright Citizenship: Is It The Right Policy For America?”
He explained that, regardless of the foreign allegiance and/or illegal status of the parents, their children, if born on U.S. soil, are automatically afforded the benefits of U.S. citizenship, including a Social Security Number and U.S. passports. This benefit also applies, he noted, to those born to mere tourists and other people with temporary status in the U.S.
“It is unlikely that Congress intended such a broad application of the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause, and the Supreme Court has only held that children born to citizens or permanently domiciled immigrants must be considered U.S. citizens at birth. Some clarity from Congress would be helpful in resolving this ongoing debate,” Feere said.
Feere further testified that the number of children in the U.S. with illegal immigrant parents increased from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4.5 million in 2010 and noted that the birthright policy is intrinsically linked to some of President Obama’s executive amnesties.
“Under the immigration enforcement priorities of the Obama administration, illegal immigrants who give birth to U.S. citizens have become low priorities for deportation. Furthermore, the president’s DAPA program, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, currently held up in court would provide benefits to illegal immigrants who gave birth here and allow them to ‘stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.’ The broad interpretation of the Citizenship Clause forms the basis for these policies,” he said.
The CIS expert highlighted other implications of birthright citizenship, such as birth tourism, where pregnant foreigners come to the U.S. simply to have a child with a U.S. passport.
“Birth tourism is becoming much more common with every passing year and Congress will have to address it,” Feere said.
Feere also testified that the many countries that once had birth-right policies have shifted away from them.
“The United States and Canada are the only two advanced economies as rated by the IMF to grant automatic citizenship to children of illegal aliens,” he said.