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Saturday, August 7, 2010

More on Birthright Citizenship

The New York Times reports:

Opponents of birthright citizenship contend that illegal immigrants are not under United States jurisdiction, therefore their American-born children should not automatically be citizens. They say the amendment could not apply to those immigrants because there was no illegal immigration when it was adopted.

“If you are an illegal immigrant, we clearly have not given you permission to reside here,” said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA, a group that favors decreased immigration. “You are still subject to the jurisdiction of your own country.”

But giving citizenship to everyone born in the United States has been the practice since the 1860s, and was upheld by the Supreme Court on the few occasions when it was tested there, immigration lawyers said. A change to the law to disallow the children of illegal immigrants would vastly increase the undocumented population, lawyers said, rather than reducing it. Babies born to Mexican mothers here illegally, for example, would become illegal Mexican immigrants from the moment of birth.

“You would be perpetuating a large undocumented population, with all these children growing up very much living in the shadows,” said Hiroshi Motomura, an immigration law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Mr. Graham’s proposal revived a popular misunderstanding: In the often heated debate over birthright citizenship, pundits refer to the problem of “anchor babies,” and talk show callers express frustration that pregnant women could cross the border from Mexico illegally, then rely on their American citizen newborns to put them immediately on a path to citizenship.

In fact, under immigration law American citizen children must wait until they are 21 years old to apply for legal residency for their parents. Also, most of the illegal immigrants who have children who are American citizens have not recently arrived.

About four million American citizen children have at least one parent who is an illegal immigrant, according to a study last year by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. They usually live in families that have been in the United States for a number of years and very often include both illegal immigrants and American citizens, the study found.