- WASHINGTON Every year,
300,000 to 400,000 children are born to illegal immigrants in the United
States, each one of them automatically a U.S. citizen despite the illegal
status of their parents. This practice of automatic, or birthright, citizenship
is not the result of any specific legislation, regulation, executive order,
or judicial ruling, and yet has become de facto law of the land.
- This has recently become an issue of political controversy,
but has been debated for many years. Legislation aimed at narrowing the
scope of birthright citizenship has been introduced in every Congress for
many years, and the latest iteration has attracted nearly 100 sponsors
in the current Congress. Likewise, some leading legal scholars and jurists
have long questioned whether such a permissive citizenship policy is constitutionally
- The international trend is clearly away from universal
birthright citizenship. Those countries that have ended the practice in
recent years include the United Kingdom (1983), Australia (1986), India
(1987), Malta (1989), Ireland (2005), New Zealand (2006), and the Dominican
Republic (2010). The overwhelming majority of the world's countries do
not offer automatic citizenship to everyone born within their borders.
- In a new report, 'Birthright Citizenship in the United
States: A Global Comparison,' the Center for Immigration Studies' legal
policy analyst Jon Feere reviews the history of the issue in American law
and presents the most up-to-date research on birthright citizenship policies
throughout the world. The global findings are the result of direct communication
with foreign government officials and analysis of foreign law. The report
concludes that Congress should promote a serious discussion about whether
the United States should automatically confer the benefits and burdens
of U.S. citizenship on the children of aliens whose presence is temporary
- Among the findings:
- Only 30 of the world's 194 countries grant automatic
citizenship to children born to illegal aliens.
- Of advanced economies, Canada and the United States are
the only countries that grant automatic citizenship to children born to
- No European country grants automatic citizenship to children
of illegal aliens.
- The global trend is moving away from automatic birthright
citizenship as many countries that once had such policies have ended them
in recent decades.
- 14th Amendment history seems to indicate that the Citizenship
Clause was never intended to benefit illegal aliens nor legal foreign visitors
temporarily present in the United States.
- The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the U.S.-born children
of permanent resident aliens are covered by the Citizenship Clause, but
the Court has never decided whether the same rule applies to the children
of aliens whose presence in the United States is temporary or illegal.
- Eminent scholars and jurists, including Professor Peter
Schuck of Yale Law School and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner,
have concluded that it is within the power of Congress to define the scope
of the Citizenship Clause through legislation, and that birthright citizenship
for the children of temporary visitors and illegal aliens could likely
be abolished by statute without amending the Constitution.
- The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent
research institution that examines the impact of immigration on the United