Some 33,000 foreign nationals give birth to babies in America each year while allegedly vacationing in the U.S., gaining citizenship for those children, and ultimately themselves.
But, wait, there’s more. Much more.
“Birth tourists” are joined by a host of foreign students, guest workers and others on long-term temporary visas who deliver 39,000 additional newborns here annually.
“These births are in addition to the nearly 300,000 births each year to illegal immigrants,” the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) reported in a new study. In each instance, the newborns are automatically granted citizenship by the U.S. While several other countries, mainly in the Western Hemisphere, follow this policy, the legal foundation for the U.S. practice is shaky.
News stories have focused on birth tourism, where pregnant foreign nationals strategically time their arrival to the U.S. shortly before their due dates so their offspring are born in the United States and are automatically awarded U.S. citizenship. Upon reaching age 21, the children can sponsor their parents for citizenship, too.
The CIS figures, gleaned from government data, raise larger concerns.
According to the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), neither the children of tourists nor those of illegal aliens or temporary residents are guaranteed citizenship under the Fourteenth Amendment. “Much of what the American public has been told about birthright citizenship is wrong,” IRLI declares.
Going back to an 1898 case, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, IRLI notes that the Supreme Court ruled a man born in San Francisco to Chinese parents was a citizen at birth under the Fourteenth Amendment because his parents, when he was born, legally resided here.
“[The court’s ruling] clearly excluded the children of illegal aliens and non-U.S. residents from constitutional birthright citizenship. The court’s decision has been incorrectly applied for 120 years,” IRLI concludes.
“Whether one is a citizen at birth under the Fourteenth Amendment depends on whether one was born in the United States to a U.S.-resident parent who, at the time, both had permission to be in the United States and owed direct and immediate allegiance to the United States,” IRLI states. “This rule excludes the children of both illegal aliens (who do not have permission to be in the country) and tourists (who do not ‘reside’ here) from constitutional birthright citizenship.”
Other critics of birthright citizenship point out that the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to confer citizenship on freed slaves after the Civil War. A footnote in a 1982 decision is the closest the Supreme Court has come to asserting that privilege extends to so-called “anchor babies” born to foreigners. But an unargued footnote constitutes neither law nor precedent.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to end birthright citizenship, which he calls “frankly ridiculous.” The legal ground on which to challenge this dubious policy must be thoroughly plowed, once and for all.