The number of babies born to unauthorized immigrant parents in the U.S. fell to 250,000 in 2016, the lowest figure since 2000, according to a new Pew Research Center report published Thursday afternoon. Such births have decreased 36 percent since hitting a peak of about 390,000 in 2007, the researchers said.
The new data comes as President Trump is focusing new attention on the issue by vowing to eliminate birthright citizenship, the constitutional provision that children born in the U.S. are automatically American citizens.
Children born to undocumented immigrants accounted for 6 percent of the 4 million births in the U.S. in 2016, the Pew Research Center estimated, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In total, about 5 million U.S.-born children under age 18 were living with at least one unauthorized immigrant parent, Pew said.
Because these births occur on American soil, the children qualify for birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
On Tuesday morning, “Axios on HBO” released video of an interview with President Trump in which he said he intends to sign an executive order that would repeal birthright citizenship.
“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.” (In fact, Canada and more than two dozen other countries have similar laws.)
Many legal experts dispute the president’s claim that he can revoke birthright citizenship by executive order, and any such action is certain to face immediate court challenges.
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who also opposes birthright citizenship, said Tuesday he would introduce legislation in Congress to end the practice. Graham referred to the current law as a “magnet for illegal immigration.”
During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly took aim at “anchor babies,” a derogatory term used to describe U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. “What happens is they’re in Mexico, they’re going to have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby,” Mr. Trump said in a 2015 Fox News interview.
However, data from the Urban Institute shows that most such families did not come to the U.S. just to give birth. More than 70 percent of birthright citizens were born to unauthorized immigrant parents who had been living in the United States for at least five years, according to an Urban Institute study from 2016. Nearly 20 percent of had parents who had been living in the United States for over 20 years — since they were children themselves.
The number of immigrants engaging in “birth tourism,” or deliberate travel into the United States solely to achieve birthright citizenship for a newborn, is minimal, said Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute. That practice is already illegal.
“This is a very, very small minority of people,” Capps told CBS News in a telephone interview. “The large majority of children receiving birthright citizenship have parents who have been here for a substantial amount of time.”
While many Republicans have claimed that ending birthright citizenship would reduce the population of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., Capps’ research at the Urban Institute found the opposite: ending citizenship for such children would simply add them to the undocumented population.
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