Immigration, both legal and illegal, remains a hot debate topic as we move into the 2020 election season. One subject falling under that umbrella is the concept of anchor babies, i.e. children born in the United States to parents who are in the country illegally. Under the legal principle of jus soli (law of the soil), such children are determined to be citizens, often offering a foothold for the parents to remain in the country as well. But is that a popular position for Democrats to run on?
Probably not as popular as you might think, despite the positive coverage such family situations receive on most cable news outlets. Scott Rasmussen recently conducted a poll on the subject, and support for anchor baby citizenship doesn’t even reach a majority. Further, if a pregnant woman enters the country illegally to give birth, a strong plurality doesn’t believe she should be allowed to stay.
Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters nationwide believe that a child born in the United States to an illegal immigrant should be considered a U.S. citizen. A ScottRasmussen.com national survey found that 41% disagree and 10% are not sure. These attitudes are little changed since November.
However, in the case of a pregnant woman who enters the country illegally and gives birth, just 32% believe she should be allowed to remain in the country. That’s down six points since last fall. Forty-seven percent (47%) do not believe she should be allowed to stay while 22% are not sure.
Of course, just because people don’t approve of something, that doesn’t mean that they can dismiss it. The standing argument in favor of birth citizenship is rooted in the first words of the Fourteenth Amendment. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States…”
More recently there has been an argument over whether there’s an escape clause in that text. It’s not enough to simply be born on American soil. You also have to be subject to the jurisdiction thereof. Are illegal aliens subject to the jurisdiction of the United States government? If we look at the findings in Plyler v. Doe, the answer would appear to be yes, but the concept hasn’t been challenged in court recently.
So at least for the moment, a child born on American soil is considered a citizen and the mother can’t be prosecuted for coming to the country for the purpose of skirting immigration law. But anyone helping her do so can be punished. In February of this year, we saw the first ever arrests of individuals in California for operating so-called “birth tourism” operations. Three men were charged with facilitating the temporary entry of pregnant women, mostly from China, for the purpose of giving birth in American hospitals and obtaining birth certificates for their babies.
The reason I bring up that case is the obvious question it raises. If we don’t have a law against coming into the country and giving birth for purposes of obtaining citizenship for the baby, how can it be illegal to offer a service helping a woman to do that? The three men in that story were charged with, “conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.” But usually, when we think of immigration fraud it involves people who marry immigrants for the sole purpose of getting them a green card. This case may lead to new rulings that touch on the question of birthright citizenship, so we should keep an eye on how that plays out.