This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Would be Accomplished by Ending Birthright Citizenship?

Legislation has been introduced into the US House of Representative that would deny citizenship to children if both of their parents were unauthorized immigrants. This would effectively seek to repeal the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that says that a person born in the United States is automatically a US citizen. The Migration Policy Institute has just published a report showing the probable impact of this law were it to be passed. The analysis by demographers Jennifer Van Hook (of Penn State University) and Michael Fix reveals that the proposed change in the law would dramatically increase the number of unauthorized immigrants in this country:


Rather than shrink the size of the unauthorized population in the United States, repeal would likely expand it — and expand it substantially. A second worrying finding is that repeal would set in motion a sizeable, self-perpetuating class of unauthorized immigrants for generations. This perpetuation of hereditary disadvantage based on the legal status of one’s ancestors would be unprecedented in US immigration law.


Supporters of the legislation have in mind that (a) people would no longer migrate to the United States if they knew that they could no longer produce an "anchor baby" and (b) that a family would be easier to deport if all members of the family are unauthorized immigrants. The MPI study suggests that, in fact, the unanticipated consequences of this proposed change would be radically different than expected by its supporters.

3 comments:

  1. I have recently heard of this proposed legislation from a friend, and when she mentioned it, it seemed like it was one of those ideas that seem reasonable on the surface, but in reality ends up doing more harm than good. So it was interesting to see the MPI study and it's findings, which showed that the actual effects may in fact be the opposite of what the supporters of the bill want. It would be great to see more studies done, and the findings of these studies covered by the media, so that our representatives can make an informed decision concerning this issue.

    -Mark Christensen

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  2. The proposed legislation to repeal one's birthright U.S. citizenship if born to parents of illegal status has become very controversial. Most of the undocumented citizens in the U.S. are Hispanic, therefore this new law may seem discriminatory to that ethic group. As mentioned in the article above, the on the surface ideas of this new proposed legislation seem to help the idea of over-population, illegal immigration, unemployment and other forms of demographic characteristics in the U.S. However, after reviewing the MPI report, it is clear that the on the surface issues are not the ones we need to consider. According to the MPI report, if illegal immigrants continue to act as they do now, after the law has changed the rise in illegal immigrants would greatly increase. I believe the illegal immigrants in the U.S. effect the economy and employment rates for the U.S. citizens in a negative way. But if this law were to increase the number of illegal people in the U.S. it doesn't really matter how good it sounds on paper. I think that the MPI report shows that the number of illegal people in the country would increase because illegal persons tend to have children with other illegal persons and instead of having a "legal" child, they would simply be contributing further to the population of undocumented immigrants. I would like to continue to research this topic and see exactly why the illegal numbers would continue to rise as proposed, in other ways.

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  3. I look at this legislation as another attempt by our uneducated representatives to spew their fear and hate agenda to the American people without looking at the whole picture and really tackling what the true issues that we are facing with immigration. This is a band-aid approach that won’t solve the immigration issues. Legislation likes this is perceived as our legislators actually doing their job, but in essence it puts their focus and the American people’s focus on a non-issue compared to the other issues involving immigration, such as lack of resources to support new immigrants, cheap labor, crime, homelessness, etc. It may look good on the surface to some, but when implemented, what are the actual consequences? The MPI Study was very informative and the conclusion of their study caught me by surprise, so I am hoping that the representatives proposing this legislation puts this study on their night stand and reads it thoroughly before moving forward; maybe they will learn something too!

    Kim Jones

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