Today, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report with new estimates and trends for the national and state undocumented immigrant populations in the U.S. in 2010. Pew traced back how long the undocumented parents of U.S.-born children had been in the United States before having babies. According to the group’s data, 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:
According to the analysis, 9% of these unauthorized immigrants who had babies in 2009-2010 had arrived in the U.S. in 2008 or later. An additional 30% arrived from 2004 to 2007, and the remaining 61% arrived in the United States before 2004. [...]
The implications of these findings pretty much invalidate the argument that is at the center of the birthright citizenship debate. This past summer, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) crassly claimed that “people come here to have babies. 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.” In other words, according to Graham, a slough of immigrants are coming to the U.S. for the express purpose of having a child who will reap the benefits of U.S. citizenship.
Just about every Republican lawmaker who supports reinterpreting or changing the 14th Amendment to eliminate the guarantee that all persons born in the U.S. are automatically citizens agrees with that logic. However, Pew’s data essentially disproves it.
It’s hard to imagine that 91 percent of undocumented immigrants made the perilous journey to the U.S. to have children and then risked detection and deportation for several years before fulfilling their supposed goal of having a family of U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether the nine percent who did end up having a child shortly after arriving in the U.S. came here for that purpose.
What is clear is that denying those children citizenship would only exacerbate the nation’s immigration problems. According to Pew’s report, “among births from March 2009 to March 2010, 350,000 newborns had at least one unauthorized parent.” Changing the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause would essentially amount to increasing the nation’s undocumented population by a couple hundred thousand people every year. And since an overwhelming amount of evidence shows that immigrants come to the U.S. to work, not to have U.S. citizen babies, those undocumented immigrants wouldn’t be leaving the U.S. any time soon.