Debate Forum Center 08/18/10

Debate Forum Center 08/18/10

Should We Amend The 14th Amendment To End ‘Anchor Baby’ Citizenship?

The debate continues to rage in political circles, media and the Internet over how to control the influx of illegal aliens migrating across U.S. borders. Recently there has been a focus on the “Citizenship Clause” of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. As state governments continue to face growing budget deficits, the economic impact of the illegal immigrant influx on state budgets and fiscal health has become a hot topic. The amendment not only guarantees equal protection of law but attempts to define who is a U.S. citizen. Critics of illegal immigration have long accused migrants, particularly those coming from south of the U.S. border, of giving birth to children in the United States in hopes that their babies’ citizenship will keep their families in the country.

The “Citizenship Clause” of 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads in part:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State
wherein they reside.”

The amendment was ratified in 1868 in part to protect the rights of native-born African-Americans, whose rights were being denied as recently-freed slaves. In 1866, Senator Jacob Howard who wrote the Fourteenth’s Citizenship Clause clearly spelled out the intent of the amendment:

“Every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons. It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States. …

However, that more narrow interpretation of the 14th Amendment was expanded under the 1965 Immigration Act. The Act determined that a baby born to an illegal alien within the U.S. borders is automatically granted U.S. citizenship. These babies have been dubbed “anchor babies” as over a period of time the child can act as an anchor in the U.S. to host other members of the child’s family into permanent U.S. residency.

A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center of Census Bureau data revealed that as many as 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the U.S. in 2008 had at least one parent who was an illegal immigrant. While unauthorized immigrants are estimated to make up a little more than 4 percent of the U.S. population, their children make up 8 percent of the newborn population and 7 percent of those under 18. The study also stated that 79 percent of the 5.1 million children under age 18 of illegal immigrants were born in the U.S. and therefore are citizens.

Today, as part of the discussion on how to deal with the illegal alien problem that the country faces, there is some discussion of amending the 14th Amendment with the intent of ending the automatic granting of citizenship to “anchor babies.”

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Should the 14th Amendment be modified to clarify who is a citizen in the U.S. and to specifically end the practice of granting “anchor babies” automatic citizenship?


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