Jus soli (aka birthright citizenship) refers to a person’s acquisition of United States citizenship by virtue of the circumstances of his or her birth. Jus soli (Latin for “right of the soil”) is the right of anyone born in the physical territory of a state to automatic citizenship. It’s controversial in the context of non-immigrant births on U.S. soil. Donald Trump has called it “the biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” U.S. citizens gain the ability to vote upon turning 18 years old. Given the Presidential election tomorrow, what I want to know is: as time passes, are so-called “anchor babies” actually affecting the outcome of U.S. elections?
The U.S. policy on birthright citizenship stems from an expanded reading of the 14th Amendment which says “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.” A study in 2010 found that only 30 of the world’s 194 countries grant citizenship at birth to the children of undocumented foreign residents, although definitive information was not available from 19 countries. See Jon Feere, “Birthright Citizenship in the United States: A Global Comparison,” Center for Immigration Studies (2010).
Republicans argue that having children become U.S. citizens is a motivating factor for immigrants to come into the country illegally, and that when the child reaches adulthood he or she often sponsors their parents for citizenship. The U.S. also rarely moves to deport parents of U.S. citizens, they say. “There’s no doubt that it’s a growing phenomenon,” CIS legal policy analyst Jon Feere said.
The Pew Research Center has tracked undocumented immigrant births since 1980, when there were an estimated 30,000 births. Adding up the number of births from 1980 to 1997, there are roughly 1,670,000 individuals born in the United States to out of status immigrants who are now of voting age. It is considered that the exact number is actually higher due to births from before 1980, as well as the 190,000 births in 1998 that were discounted because those born later in the year are not yet 18. This means that the estimate of 1.67 million children actually seems to be on the conservative side.
Given the high number of births stemming from folks who are unlawfully present or overstaying visas, how is this affecting the election? Most unlawfully present immigrants are Hispanic or Asian, both of which are heavily Democratic voting blocks. If the children of unlawful immigrants hold similar voting patterns as their parents, it spells trouble for the GOP. These individuals will certainly influence the 2016 election.
“The GOP’s electoral chances are imperiled not only by birthright citizenship, but also even more so by legal immigration,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). “The broader point is that when you let lots of people into your country who are likely to vote for bigger government, it’s going to change your politics, and even if we didn’t have our current citizenship practices, you’d see the same thing happening just because of legal immigration,” Krikorian said. He added that birthright citizenship is “icing on the cake” for those on the left “who consciously and intentionally use immigration policy to skew politics, to move the center in their direction.”
As a result of the growing First Generation American population one thing is sure, the voting population of the U.S. is evolving. As Mark Krikorian said, “Immigration is, in fact, changing the political character of the country.”