Is The Birthright Citizenship Amendment Really Being Abused?

Donald Trump is leading the current charge in a debate that has been raging for a long time. But do immigrants really take advantage of the law granting citizenship to babies born on US soil?

GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA - OCTOBER 18: An immigrant mother pushes her child past the Guatemalan National Palace at dawn as part of a migrant caravan en route to the Mexican border on October 18, 2018 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore / Getty Images

Donald Trump is leading the current charge in a debate that has been raging for a long time. But do immigrants really take advantage of the law granting citizenship to babies born on US soil?

Donald Trump has created controversy with his latest claim that he plans to repeal the 14th Amendment, and thus stop granting citizenship to babies born on US soil. This means that children of immigrants are no longer American citizens, whether born in the US or not.

And this is an issue that the Republican Party has been talking about for years. Many GOP candidates and political leaders have claimed that birthright citizenship is being abused by immigrants, who intentionally come to the US just to deliver their children. This is where the term “anchor babies” comes from.

So, is birthright citizenship really causing more immigration problems?

Pew Research data provides lots of hard facts about birthright citizenship. Around 90 percent of all immigrants who give birth in the US arrived in the country two years or more before giving birth, according to USA Today. This would seem to conflict with the idea that immigrants are coming to the country in droves just to deliver their babies.

Pregnant woman on the beach silhouette
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There were about 275,000 babies born to undocumented parents in 2014. This number peaked in 2006, when around 370,000 children were born to undocumented immigrants.

“People come here to have babies,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in a 2010 interview on Fox News, according to Politifact. “They come here to drop a child. It’s called ‘drop and leave.’ To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child’s automatically an American citizen. That shouldn’t be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”

Having a child, by the way, isn’t a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Children can’t sponsor their parents until they are at least 21. Any parent who was ever an illegal has to go back to their country of birth for 10 years before applying for citizens.

There is no hard evidence to support this idea that women are sneaking into the US specifically to give birth.

And what about “birth tourism,” something else cited by Republicans? It’s true that some hospitals offer special birthing packages to Mexicans and other immigrants who can afford to pay the price. Tucson Medical Center, for example, offers a maternity package that starts at $2,300. There are some foreigners who come to the US from elsewhere to take advantage of the medical facilities here, but in general this has little to nothing to do with birthright citizenship and these people obtain tourism visas in order to take advantage of American healthcare opportunities.

“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,” Donald Trump said in a recent interview, according to Forbes. That’s technically true, because France doesn’t grant US citizenship and neither does any other country in the world except for the US.

However, if what he’s saying is that only the US grants birthright citizenship, then he’s wrong. Around 33 countries grant birthright citizenship, including our nearest neighbors Mexico and Canada.