Birthright citizenship cannot become a thing of the past


Illustration by Shepard Fairey from the We The People campaign.

Annika Agni, Staff Writer

Recently, President Trump announced that he will try to end birthright citizenship for the children of non-citizens and undocumented immigrants born in America with an executive order. Birthright citizenship is protected by the 14th amendment of the U.S Constitution, which states that “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.” In other words, any child born in this country will automatically become a citizen, regardless of the immigration status of their parents. Birthright citizenship should not become a thing of the past.

At the moment, the two main ways to become a citizen by birth are through birthright citizenship, or by being born to U.S. citizens. Ending birthright citizenship would affect the babies of all non-citizens. Any baby born to an non-citizen would not become a citizen, while any baby born to a U.S. citizen automatically would earn citizenship.

Even the babies of legal immigrants who are not yet naturalized citizens would not become citizens. According to the Center of Immigration Studies, in 2014, roughly one in every five births in America was to an immigrant. Of that, it is estimated that about 12.4% of births were to a legal immigrant, while about 7.5% were to an illegal immigrant.

The question at hand is, is it fair that only babies born to U.S. citizens would automatically become citizens, while other babies born in America wouldn’t, simply because of the immigration status of their parents?

Ending birthright citizenship would make it much harder for children of legal immigrants to become citizens. It takes legal immigrants years to become naturalized citizens. My own parents had not yet acquired citizenship status (they were green card holders working on gaining citizenship) at the time of my birth.

I became a citizen because I was born in this country, and the 14th amendment ensures that I have that right to citizenship. But if Trump gets rid of birthright citizenship, thousands of American-born children of legal immigrants would not get the opportunity to become an automatic American citizen like I did, just because their parents are not from here. Automatic citizenship would only be granted to American-born children with parents who are already American citizens.

When it comes to the American-born children of illegal immigrants earning automatic citizenship, there is quite a bit more controversy. Some say that birthright citizenship should end for the children of undocumented immigrants, or “anchor babies.” “Anchor baby” is a derogatory term used to imply that birthright citizen children born to undocumented parents are “anchors” of a sort, because they supposedly make it easier for family members to secure citizenship and protect against deportation.

However, a 2010 report by the Pew Research Center estimated that 90% of undocumented immigrants who had children in America had already been living here for over two years, which casts some doubt on whether or not undocumented immigrants really come here just for birthright citizenship for their children.

In addition to that, a 2010 report from the Migration Policy Institute showed that ending birthright citizenship would only add to the number of unauthorized immigrants, rather than reduce it, and would add anywhere from 16 million to 24 million more unauthorized immigrants by 2050, depending on how strict the law is.

It is also important to note that the number of births to unauthorized immigrants is declining. The Pew Research Center has found that there has been a 36% decline from 2007 to 2016, where of all children born in America, about 9% of children born were born to illegal immigrants in 2007, to 6% in 2016.

While some believe that birthright citizenship leads to immigrants surging to America and “abusing the system,” it is clear to me that this is not really the case. Immigrants should be able to take advantage of  the opportunities America offers; the very same opportunities we already have within our reach and tend to take for granted. An immigrant who wants a better life for themself in no way “abuses the system” simply by coming here.

Legal immigrants should have the chance to start a life here, and have their children become citizens, like any other child born here would. Many of of our own classmates with immigrant parents most likely became citizens the same way I did, through birthright citizenship. America was founded by immigrants, and taking away birthright citizenship would only make it harder for many hardworking immigrants to have a chance at the American dream. And as for illegal immigrants, research shows that birthright citizenship is likely not the reason they came here for, and ending it would only add more illegal immigrants to the population.

Birthright citizenship contributes to the growing ethnic and cultural diversity of America. It is the reason why I have the same opportunities that every other American-born citizen does. America is a melting pot of cultures and countries, where anybody can live the American dream. Without birthright citizenship, we would would only become more xenophobic, and it would be much harder  and take much longer for immigrants and their children to become citizens. The divide would only widen between immigrants and citizens. Hundreds of thousands of children born to immigrants would lose their constitutional rights to automatic citizenship in a country that was founded by immigrants, resulting in automatic American citizenship to be exclusively reserved for those with the American citizens for parents. If birthright citizenship dies, so does the American dream.