Pew: 8% of American births to illegals?

Hmmmm.  With some conservatives broaching the possibility of a Constitutional amendment to modify the 14th Amendment to clarify birthright citizenship as requiring at least one parent to be either a citizen or a legal immigrant, a chorus of voices has insisted that the problem of anchor babies doesn’t exist anyway, at least not significantly enough to make it a focus of political action.  However, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center claim that births from illegals amounts to 8% of all American births does tend to put the question in a whole new context:

One in twelve babies born in the U.S. in 2008 were the offspring of illegal immigrants, according to a new study, a statistic that could inflame the debate over birthright citizenship.

Undocumented immigrants make up slightly more than 4% of the U.S. adult population. However, their babies represented twice that share, or 8%, of all births on U.S. soil in 2008, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center’s report.

“Unauthorized immigrants are younger than the rest of the population, are more likely to be married and have higher fertility rates than the rest of the population,” said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at Pew in Washington, D.C.

The report, based on Census Bureau data and analysis of demographic characteristics of the undocumented population, also found that the lion’s share, or 79%, of the 5.1 million children of illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. in 2009 were born in the U.S. and therefore citizens.

How many births did the US have in 2008?  That year actually showed a decline … to 4,247,000, down from 4.3 million the year before.  That means the US had around 339,760 births from illegal immigrants in 2008 alone.  Add in Mom and Dad, and suddenly we have close to a million illegal immigrants that the US would have a mighty difficult time deporting — in one year.

If 79% of 5.1 million children are birthright citizens, that makes just over 4 million.  If we again add in just one parent (statistically, probably slightly less, as some families will have only one parent and more than one child), that’s eight million people that can’t be deported.  If we’re adding 340,000 children a year to that total, it’s going to severely complicate enforcement of immigration law no matter what happens in Congress … assuming Congress ever does anything about immigration enforcement.

One way or another, the question of the nature of citizenship will have to get answered.  However, the legal issue may not be as unresolvable as some think.  The 14th Amendment makes one condition in its language: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  So far as I know, that has led courts to consider children born of legal immigrants citizens of the US, since they submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of America and its laws. A case can be made that the clause could restrict birthright citizenship to only those legally in the country — and it would certainly be easier to float a test case with a deportation order than it would be to amend the Constitution.  Why not let the courts have a crack at it first?