Study: 8 Percent of Babies Born to Illegal Immigrants

What does this mean for U.S. policy?

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Pew has published a new study examining illegal immigrants in the U.S. and their children. The study comes as some Republicans discuss repealing the 14th amendment, which would annul the citizenship of all U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants, which some conservatives have dubbed "anchor babies." Here's what they found, what it reveals about illegal immigration, and what it means for U.S. policy.

  • What Pew Reports  The study indicates, "An estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 were the offspring of unauthorized immigrants. ... Unauthorized immigrants comprise slightly more than 4% of the adult population of the U.S., but because they are relatively young and have high birthrates, their children make up a much larger share of both the newborn population (8%) and the child population (7% of those younger than age 18) in this country. ... Nearly four-in-five (79%) of the 5.1 million children (younger than age 18) of unauthorized immigrants were born in this country and therefore are U.S. citizens. In total, 4 million U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents resided in this country in 2009, alongside 1.1 million foreign-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents."
  • Repeal Would Create 4 Million New Illegal Immigrants  The Washington Independent's Elise Foley points out, "Some Republicans, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, have said the 14th Amendment should be changed to prevent it from acting as a draw to illegal immigrants. But without automatic citizenship for children born in the U.S., many of these children, like their parents, would be undocumented, adding to the illegal immigrant population in the U.S."
  • ...And Deny Citizenship to 8% of Babies  New York Magazine's Nitasha Tiku writes, "Another way of looking at this would be to say that Lindsey Graham, John Boehner, and the like would like to repeal the 14th Amendment — sort of like a Post-It note on that Constitution — in order to deny citizenship to 8 percent of the babies born in 2008."
  • 'Dispels Anchor Babies Myths'  Time's Kate Pickert writes, "there are a few glaring questions unanswered by this new data set. For starters, how long were these illegal immigrant mothers in the U.S. before their children were born? The report itself does not answer this crucial question, so I called Jeff Passel, co-author of the report. He told me that based on the years that the report's underlying data was produced, he knows that 'well over 80%' of the 340,000 births cited in the report happened to women who had been in the U.S. more than one year. That blows a giant hole in the notion that mothers are crossing the U.S.-Mexican border just in time to give birth in American hospitals."
  • What About Families With One Illegal Parent?  The New York Times' Julia Preston writes, "Some researchers noted that the Pew figures did not identify families where both parents were illegal immigrants. 'If anything, the Pew report highlights how complicated this issue is, given that so many unauthorized immigrants live in families that include U.S. citizens and legal immigrants,' said Michele Waslin, senior policy analyst for the Immigration Policy Center, a group that supports legalization for illegal immigrants."
  • 'National Independence' Problem  Mark Krikorian of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies tells the New York Times, "What the Pew estimate underlines is that this is a big problem. ... It really is a subversion of national independence for people who break into your country then to demand that their kids be U.S. citizens."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.