An immigration reform organization says a new study is proof positive that abuse of "birthright citizenship" in the U.S. still needs to be addressed.
According to a new study released by the Center for Immigration Studies, birth tourism is adding an estimated 20,000 to 26,000 citizens annually to the country. Pregnant women travel to the United States with the intentions of delivering a child on U.S. soil. If a child is born on U.S. soil, that child automatically qualifies for U.S. citizenship. After the child turns 21 years old, that citizen can sponsor parents and other relatives to come to the United States.
A spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform says those are staggering statistics.
"Now any rational country that placed any value on its citizenship would take immediate steps to stop this," says Ira Mehlman, "but I'm not sure we have any rational leadership anymore in this country, and so it goes on. This is based on a flawed interpretation of the 14th Amendment Citizenship Clause."
Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in 1868, states:
"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. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Mehlman says because Congress refuses to address the abuse of birthright citizenship, it needs to be tested in the courts.
"The courts do need to look at what the wording and intent of the 14th Amendment Citizenship Clause was," he argues. "[It] was basically to ensure that after the Civil War the people who were emancipated would be recognized as U.S. citizens, and rightly so.
"[But] nobody anticipated that you would have thousands of people coming from places like China and Russia every year just to give birth in this country and acquire citizenship for their kids."
The FAIR spokesman contends that illegal immigrants, birth tourists, and temporary visitors are subject to a foreign power and are not under the jurisdiction of the United States – and therefore should not qualify for automatic citizenship.