According to a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center, an estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 were the children of undocumented immigrants:
As of 2009, Pew reports, 4 million children of undocumented immigrants were American citizens and residing in the United States. Restrictionist outfits like the Center for Immigration Studies have latched on to this analysis as evidence that "anchor babyism" is a widespread problem, but you can't actually draw that conclusion from the information presented. Pew's numbers simply don't tell us that much; outside of basic demographic information, we know nothing about the circumstances of these births.
That said, it's still the case that "anchor babies" aren't really a problem; American-born children of undocumented immigrants must be 21 before they can sponsor a parent for citizenship. And while I'm not going to categorically dismiss the possibility of that kind of long-term planning, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that the overwhelming majority of undocumented parents are not thinking that far ahead.
Before I go, it's worth mentioning CNN's poll on birthright citizenship, which found Americans evenly split between those who favor a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship (49 percent) and those who oppose one (51 percent). To me, this demonstrates two truths: First, demagoguery is a lot more effective when there isn't anyone around to defend the marginalized group, and second -- to borrow from Matt Yglesias -- economic distress goes hand in hand with fearful nativism.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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