Anchor Babies: Is Citizenship an Entitled Birthright?

"In 1994, Alma Meza Guitierrez  travelled hundreds of miles with her 
three year old son through Mexico and across the U.S. border in order 
to reach her aunt and uncle's small apartment in San Diego. She lives 
in squalid conditions in the apartment's kitchen, she does not speak 
English and has little prospects for employment. Why would a 20- 
year-old mother of one give up her life in Mexico to endure such 
circumstances? Alma is pregnant and she, like thousands of other 
women who enter the United States illegally each year, knows that 
giving birth in the U.S. means her child will be an "anchor baby" and 
granted U.S. citizenship. For Alma, that means her child will immedi-
ately qualify for a slew of federal, state and local benefit programs. 
In addition, when Alma's child turns 21, he can sponsor the immigra-
tion of other members of the Guitierrez clan."

"Born In the USA" San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb. 20, 1994.

Anchor Babies and Interpreting the 14th Amendment

It is well known that a person born in the United States is an automatic citizen regardless of the mother's citizenship status. However, the United States is unusual in its offer of citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. Only a few European countries still grant automatic citizenship at birth. The United Kingdom and Australia repealed their U.S. style policy in the 1980s after witnessing abuses similar to those plaguing the U.S. today. Why does the United States continue to allow a practice subject to widespread fraud? The answer lies in how American jurisprudence has interpreted the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The 14th Amendment was added to the Constitution as part of the post Civil War reforms aimed at addressing injustices to African Americans. It states that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States" and was crafted so that state governments could never deny citizenship to anyone born in the United States. However, when the amendment was crafted, the United States had no immigration policy, and thus the authors saw no need to state explicitly, what they believed was understood. The phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" was intended to exclude from automatic citizenship American-born persons whose allegiance to the United States was not complete. In the case of illegal aliens who are temporarily or unlawfully in the United States, because their native country has a claim of allegiance to the child, the completeness of the allegiance to the United States is impaired and logically precludes automatic citizenship.

"Every Person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.
Senator Jacob Howard, Co-author of the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment, 1866.

The Price We Pay

What This All Means and What Can Be Done

Higher Taxes: The federal government has control over immigration law for the United States. By not addressing this abuse, the funds that state and local governments must provide to anchor babies amounts to a virtual tax on U.S. citizens to subsidize illegal aliens.

Disrespect for the rule of law: By not closing this loophole, the federal government in effect rewards law-breakers and punishes those who have chosen to follow the rules and immigrate legally. Allowing illegal aliens to give birth to American citizens, in effect, makes citizenship a license for welfare. [Peter Brimelow. National Review, April 7, 1997.]

The present guarantee under American law of automatic birthright citizenship to the children of illegal aliens can one more incentive to illegal migration and violation by nonimmigrant aliens already here[.] When this attraction is combined with the powerful lure of the expanded entitlements conferred upon citizen children and their families by the modern welfare state, the total incentive effect of birthright citizenship may well become significant.
Profs. Peter Schuck and Rogers Smith, "Consensual Citizenship," Chronicles, July 1992.

Congressional action warranted: The 14th Amendment stipulates that Congress has the power to enforce its provisions by enactment of legislation and the power to enforce a law is necessarily accompanied by the authority to interpret that law. Therefore, an act of Congress stating its interpretation of the 14th Amendment, as not to include the offspring of illegal aliens, would fall within Congress's prerogative.

[FAIR supports legislation introduced into the current Congress to change the automatic conferral of citizenship to children of illegal aliens. See the Legislative Update page for H.R.7 by Rep Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and H.R.346 by Rep Bob Stump (R-AZ). An excellent description of the issue written by Rep. Bilbray was published by the San Diego Union-Tribune on August 17, 1997. Bilbray Op-Ed]

FAIR, 8/97.

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