August 17, 2010
The controversy surrounding the 14th Amendment, which specifies that all children born in the United States are automatically U.S. citizens, continues. The discussion in the last 10 years is rooted in the debate over illegal immigration from Mexico and border security. Those who have initiated the movement claim that a large number of illegal immigrants come to the United States specifically to have a child, or a so-called “anchor baby,” so that the parents would be able to remain in the United States due to being the parents of an American citizen. Proponents of overturning the 14th Amendment state that anchor babies often qualify for government assistance, which makes it more difficult to deport their illegal parents. However, there is no evidence to support the claim that deportation of parents of anchor babies is any more difficult than the deportation of other illegal immigrants.
Those that argue for a change in current laws claim that there are a large number of children born to illegal immigrants within United States borders each year. They point to 2008 data that shows that one out of every 12 children born in the United States were born to illegal immigrants, according to a study by Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization. This translates into approximately 340,000 babies who were given automatic U.S. citizenship out of the 4.3 million babies born in the U.S. that year. While the debate continues, we must consider what this may mean for the United States if the 14th Amendment is indeed overturned.
According to the study, as of 2009, more than 75 percent of illegal immigrants in the United States were Latinos. As the law stands now, if the parents of U.S. citizens are found to be in this country illegally, the parents would still be deported to their country of origin. Would the risk of deportation for the entire family actually stifle the high number of unauthorized immigrants who enter the country each year? Possibly. As the law stands now, children of illegal immigrants who were given automatic citizenship have the opportunity to act as a sponsor for family members for entry into the U.S. at the age of 21. If the opportunity of future sponsorship did not exist, some argue that having children in the U.S. would be less attractive. But is this approach Constitutional?
There is no study that shows, however, that changing the 14th Amendment will in fact alter the future data of US born children to foreign born parents. The truth is most parents would like their children born in the US, a country that at the core of its success is the fair and equal treatment of all persons. The concept of having classes of individuals born in the US but in fact are not US citizens flies in the face of many of the basic values we hold so dear to our hearts as Americans.
Currently the majority of Americans oppose changing the 14th Amendment, as 56 percent of Americans are against changing citizenship provisions, according to the Pew Research Center.