Recently some Republican legislators — including but not limited to John McCain, John Boehner, Jon Kyl, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and Jeff Sessions — have advocated reviewing the Fourteenth Amendment (and one sarcastic call to repeal the Nineteenth). Specifically, they want to repeal the Citizenship Clause, the part about anyone born on American soil being granted citizenship. For the record, here is the clause in its entirety:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The Citizenship Clause should be repealed, they argue, because of so-called “anchor babies,” perhaps the most unsympathetic synonym for birth ever. “People come here to have babies. They come here to drop a child,” Graham told Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “That shouldn’t be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”
Leaving aside several facts for the moment — like citizens who are the children of illegal immigrants cannot even apply for them to come the U.S. until they are 21, or that there is no evidence of anyone exploiting the Constitution to create “terror babies” — there is a new report from the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute that finds repealing the clause will actually increase the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S., a finding counter to claims that it would cut down on illegal immigrants by dissuading them from coming here to give birth in the first place.
Using statistical analysis on demographic data, the researchers concluded that repeal of the clause would increase the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. from 11 million today to 16 million by 2050. Similar analysis of policies further limiting citizenship indicate those numbers increase more with the strictness of limitations.
“We conclude that if birthright citizenship were no longer granted to US-born children of unauthorized immigrants, the unauthorized population likely would increase dramatically,” the report’s authors wrote. “Rather than shrink the size of the unauthorized population in the United States, repeal would actually expand it – and expand it substantially.”
In reality those questioning the Fourteenth Amendment likely had no real intention of repealing the Citizenship Clause — such a procedure would be lengthy and politically costly as, like any Constitutional amendment, it would require a two-thirds majority in Congress and approval from three-fourths of the states. This report simply simply serves to better inform claims made by Fourteenth Amendment opposition.