Automatic Citizenship for Children of Illegals?

Jeff emails: “I think all foreign-born nationals should have their citizenship reviewed periodically, and if they aren’t productive it should be revoked, just like conversion. Particular attention should be paid to Australians.”

From WASHINGTON (August 31, 2010) – Every year, 300,000 to 400,000 children are born to illegal immigrants in the United States, each one of them automatically a U.S. citizen despite the illegal status of their parents. This practice of automatic, or birthright, citizenship is not the result of any specific legislation, regulation, executive order, or judicial ruling, and yet has become de facto law of the land.

This has recently become an issue of political controversy, but has been debated for many years. Legislation aimed at narrowing the scope of birthright citizenship has been introduced in every Congress for many years, and the latest iteration has attracted nearly 100 sponsors in the current Congress. Likewise, some leading legal scholars and jurists have long questioned whether such a permissive citizenship policy is constitutionally mandated.

The international trend is clearly away from universal birthright citizenship. Those countries that have ended the practice in recent years include the United Kingdom (1983), Australia (1986), India (1987), Malta (1989), Ireland (2005), New Zealand (2006), and the Dominican Republic (2010). The overwhelming majority of the world’s countries do not offer automatic citizenship to everyone born within their borders.

In a new report, ‘Birthright Citizenship in the United States: A Global Comparison,’ the Center for Immigration Studies’ legal policy analyst Jon Feere reviews the history of the issue in American law and presents the most up-to-date research on birthright citizenship policies throughout the world. The global findings are the result of direct communication with foreign government officials and analysis of foreign law. The report concludes that Congress should promote a serious discussion about whether the United States should automatically confer the benefits and burdens of U.S. citizenship on the children of aliens whose presence is temporary or illegal.

Among the findings:

  • Only 30 of the world’s 194 countries grant automatic citizenship to children born to illegal aliens.
  • Of advanced economies, Canada and the United States are the only countries that grant automatic citizenship to children born to illegal aliens.
  • No European country grants automatic citizenship to children of illegal aliens.
  • The global trend is moving away from automatic birthright citizenship as many countries that once had such policies have ended them in recent decades.
  • 14th Amendment history seems to indicate that the Citizenship Clause was never intended to benefit illegal aliens nor legal foreign visitors temporarily present in the United States.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the U.S.-born children of permanent resident aliens are covered by the Citizenship Clause, but the Court has never decided whether the same rule applies to the children of aliens whose presence in the United States is temporary or illegal.
  • Eminent scholars and jurists, including Professor Peter Schuck of Yale Law School and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner, have concluded that it is within the power of Congress to define the scope of the Citizenship Clause through legislation, and that birthright citizenship for the children of temporary visitors and illegal aliens could likely be abolished by statute without amending the Constitution.

1. Memorandum: From Bad to Worse: Unemployment and Underemployment Among Less-Educated U.S.-Born Workers, 2007 to 2010
2. Video: Mark Krikorian debates Obama Administration’s Relaxed Enforcement
3. Blog: ICE’s Melting Math
4. Blog: 2009 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics Offers Some Insights
5. Blog: Seeing Is Believing
6. Blog: Price of Victory
7. Blog: Obama Administration Caves on Questionable Border-Area Passports
8. Blog: Jesuit Demands Mexico Stop Abuses of Migrants
9. Blog: Paradigm Shift: Updating Immigration Policy’s ‘Conventional Wisdom’
10. Blog: Breaking Immigration Policy’s Spiral of Silence
11. Blog: Let ‘Em Loose Bruce, or Line-Flushing in Immigration Court
12. Blog: Immigration Policy and the Real ‘Two Americas’
13. Blog: The U.S. Needs a Vibrant Low-Growth Population Advocacy Organization
14. Blog: A Strategy for Winning the Immigration Battle
15. Blog: Ross Douthat’s Two Americas
16. Blog: Grassroots Groups Call Obama Amnesty on Carpet

— Mark Krikorian]

From Bad to Worse: Unemployment and Underemployment Among Less-Educated U.S.-Born Workers, 2007 to 2010
By Steven A. Camarota, August 24, 2010

Excerpt: Less-educated, younger, and minority American workers face the worst job market in decades, far worse than their more educated counterparts. However the situation for these workers was very difficult even before the current recession began at the end of 2007. This report examines their employment situation in the second quarters of 2010 and 2007 (before the recession). Younger and less-educated workers are the most likely to be in competition with immigrants — legal and illegal. (Figures in this report are seasonally unadjusted.)

Mark Krikorian debates Obama Administration’s Relaxed Enforcement
By Mark Krikorian, August 27, 2010–CAbIsMM

ICE’s Melting Math
By James R. Edwards Jr., August 29, 2010

Excerpt: If you wanted to show the public that you mean business, and you’re the nation’s immigration enforcement agency, maybe you’d want to show some real results. Maybe you’d keep producing real results in a sustained manner. Maybe you’d think, ‘Hey, if we really, truly start enforcing the immigration laws and drop this de facto amnesty stuff, the public might be convinced that we’re sincerely trying to do the job we’re sworn to do.’

2009 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics Offers Some Insights
By David North, August 29, 2010

Excerpt: The newly issued 2009 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics provides some useful insights into how our government deals with immigrants, while simultaneously not providing some badly needed policy-relevant data.

The publication, as the name implies, is part of a long-running series of statistical reports – my own collection goes back to 1961 but the government’s set must start in the 19th century. It is assembled and published by the Office of Immigration Statistics, the smallest of the four immigration-related agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.

Seeing Is Believing
By James R. Edwards Jr., August 29, 2010

Excerpt: If there’s any doubt that the Obama administration is running headlong away from immigration enforcement and toward de facto amnesty, it will disappear with a quick review of the latest evidence.

The weak-on-crime, coddle-the-lawbreakers political appointees in the Department of Homeland Security have had their deliberate non-enforcement policy direction exposed in the past few weeks. Instead of a drip-drip-drip dribble of tidbits and leaks, the administration has been blown by torrents of irrefutable evidence against denials of its systematically undermining the rule of law in immigration.

Price of Victory
By Mark Krikorian, August 27, 2010

Excerpt: This is an important issue. Linda and the rest of the pro-amnesty crowd have to denigrate McCain’s decision to flip-flop, because to admit its necessity would be to admit that being weak on immigration can, under certain circumstances, have serious political consequences — something the Obama crowd and its conservative auxiliaries cannot accept. Maybe McCain was wrong. Maybe he could have stuck to his original position on immigration and won anyway. But whose political judgment about the mood of the electorate do you think is more sound? That of a career politician who’s never lost an election in his home state and who survived a serious corruption scandal to go on to secure his party’s presidential nomination? Or that of a pundit

Obama Administration Caves on Questionable Border-Area Passports
By David North, August 27, 2010

Excerpt: It has been known along the southern border for decades that some birth certificates, particularly in rural areas, were both suspect and likely to be used in U.S. passport applications.

Not all midwives and rural county clerks were beyond suspicion.

But what better way for illegal aliens, usually of Mexican extraction, to obtain instant legalization than to obtain State Department-issued U.S. passports?

Jesuit Demands Mexico Stop Abuses of Migrants
By Jerry Kammer, August 26, 2010

Excerpt: A Jesuit priest who has long denounced the Mexican government for failing to protect Central American migrants from abuses on their way northward has rejected official statements of outrage at the massacre of 72 migrants in the northern border state of Tamaulipas.

‘Don’t come to me and tell me that this causes you great pain because that isn’t true,’ said Jesuit priest Pedro Pantoja, according to the online edition of the Mexican magazine Proceso. Pantoja directs a migrants’ center in the city of Saltillo.

Paradigm Shift: Updating Immigration Policy’s ‘Conventional Wisdom’
By Stanley Renshon, August 26, 2010

Excerpt: The philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn revolutionized his field with the 1962 publication of a seminal book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In it he argued that science, no less than other forms of human effort, proceeded on the basis of its own received beliefs. These beliefs formed the foundation of what was deemed acceptable scientific practice and provided as well the basic framework for examining science’s results. What then developed was the practice and reward of so-called ‘normal science’ that took place almost entirely within and according to the rules of the dominant paradigm.

Breaking Immigration Policy’s Spiral of Silence
By Stanley Renshon, August 25, 2010

Excerpt: Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, a specialist in German public opinion research, published a book in 1984 with the University of Chicago Press, entitled The Spiral of Silence. In it, she tried to understand why ordinary Germans had not been more vocal in their opposition to the gradual rise and consolidation of Hitler’s regime.

Let ‘Em Loose Bruce, or Line-Flushing in Immigration Court
By Mark Krikorian, August 25, 2010

Excerpt: Mind you, this isn’t a question of ICE agents deciding to focus on, say, airport workers instead of dishwashers; that kind of prioritization happens all the time and is unavoidable in the real world. These are people who’ve already been arrested, charged, and in deportation proceedings simply being let go because the backlog is too large. It’s like the phenomenon of ‘line-flushing’ at border crossings, where if the line of foreigners trying to enter the country gets too long, inspectors are sometimes instructed to just let everyone in and start checking again later, so as not to interfere with border commerce

Immigration Policy and the Real ‘Two Americas’
By Stanley Renshon, August 24, 2010

Excerpt: It is easy to get into trouble when you divide this vast, diverse country into two dichotomous parts and claim that distinction explains something enormously significant. If like former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards you argue ‘we still live in a country where there are two different Americas … one, for all of those people who have lived the American dream and don’t have to worry, and another for most Americans, everybody else who struggle to make ends meet every single day,’ while living in a 28,200-square-foot house, you can legitimately be accused of hypocrisy and trying to foment class warfare for political gain.

The U.S. Needs a Vibrant Low-Growth Population Advocacy Organization
By David North, August 24, 2010

Excerpt: America needs a vigorous conversation about the size of our future population, and a vibrant organization making the pro-slow-growth argument.

Such an organization would, among other things, argue for a much lower rate of immigration, but it would do so from a possibly sturdier foundation than the one currently available to the restrictionists.

A Strategy for Winning the Immigration Battle
By Ronald W. Mortensen, August 24, 2010

Excerpt: Previous blogs have discussed how those of us who oppose illegal immigration have largely failed to win the battle in spite of years of effort. We have allowed ourselves to be defined by the opposition and we have all too often adopted tactics that validate their portrayal of us. But perhaps most importantly, we have generally failed to put a human face on our arguments and we have seldom appealed to the emotions of the public and policy makers.

Ross Douthat’s Two Americas
By Stanley Renshon, August 23, 2010

Excerpt: The usually sensible New York Times columnist Ross Douthat careens into a conceptual immigration ditch in trying to divide Americans into those who welcome immigrants as long as they profess allegiance to this country’s iconic creedal ideals and those who ‘often strikes cruder, more xenophobic notes.’ In two different entries last week – ‘Islam in Two Americas’ and ‘Assimilation and Nativism’ – he made an unfortunate and ill-founded distinction between those for whom ‘allegiance to the Constitution trumps ethnic differences, language barriers and religious divides’ and those who expect ‘new arrivals to assimilate themselves to these norms, and quickly’ and one might add ‘or else’!

Grassroots Groups Call Obama Amnesty on Carpet
By James R. Edwards Jr., August 23, 2010

Excerpt: Eighteen grassroots organizations, including NumbersUSA, Eagle Forum, ProEnglish, and Let Freedom Ring, have today released a jointly signed letter opposing an administrative end-run around Congress by the Obama administration. The scheme entails amnesty by bureaucratic means to legalize millions of illegal aliens through what are supposed to be exceptional-case powers.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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