How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Report: Most undocumented parents arrived long before having kids

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Babies nap in a Missouri hospital nursery, February 2010

An interesting nugget buried inside a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center is relevant to the current debate over birthright citizenship brewing in Congress and state legislatures.

The report, which provides a snapshot of the current undocumented population in this country, finds that 91 percent of the undocumented parents who had babies in the United States over a one-year period ending last March had already been here several years.

Some of the details:

The Pew Hispanic Center analysis also examined year-of-arrival patterns for unauthorized immigrant parents of babies born from March 2009 to March 2010, to see how long the parents had been in the United States before their children were born. If year of arrival was available for both parents, the analysis used the most recently arrived parent.

According to the analysis, 9% of these unauthorized immigrants who had babies in 2009-2010 had arrived in the U.S. in 2008 or later. An additional 30% arrived from 2004 to 2007, and the remaining 61% arrived in the United States before 2004.

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The future of birthright citizenship: A wrap-up

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Elementary school students recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a September 11 memorial service in Tyler, Texas, 2003

During the past week, Multi-American has dissected the growing debate over the United States' longstanding policy of jus soli citizenship, commonly known as birthright citizenship.


Posts prior to the series covered the history of the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868; the content of model legislation introduced

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The end of birthright citizenship: Could it happen here?

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In September, a report from the Migration Policy Institute took a shot at predicting what the unauthorized population of the United States might look like in 2050 if birthright citizenship were repealed.

It estimated that depending on the rules established, the total unauthorized population - now estimated at around 11 million - would grow over the next four decades to anywhere between 16 million and 24 million. Not because more people would necessarily be entering illegally, but because these immigrants would be having U.S. born second-generation undocumented children. And because these children, without legal status, would eventually have third-generation undocumented children of their own.

Even if all new illegal immigration into the United States were to stop, the report concluded, the biggest drop in the unauthorized population would occur among foreign-born immigrants, with slower but still-steady growth of an undocumented second and possibly future generations.

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How citizenship is defined around the world

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A map illustrating nations that recognize jus soli citizenship, otherwise known as birthright citizenship (dark blue), and those that don't (gray).


As immigration-restriction advocates campaign to deny U.S. citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants, it's worth taking a look at how other nations handle citizenship at birth.

The United States is one of a long list of countries that recognize jus soli (Latin for "right of the soil") citizenship, most comonly known as birthright citizenship. And there is an even longer list of nations that don't.

The vast majority of nations in the Americas recognize jus soli, including Canada, Mexico (which recognizes nationality at birth) and most of Central and South America. Outside of the Americas, however, straightforward jus soli policies are rare. The norm in Europe, Asia and in much of Africa and elsewhere is some form of jus sanguinis (Latin for "right of blood") citizenship, typically granted to children born to a national of that country.

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Why the birthright citizenship battle is heating up now

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There was a time when even in immigration restriction circles, talk of doing away with automatic U.S. citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants was an argument that didn’t make it far beyond the fringes. So why is it now that this proposition has made it to the center of the immigration debate?

The timing of multiple new bills aimed at ending birthright citizenship isn't an accident. Two years ago, a House bill that proposed amending the Immigration and Naturalization act to limit citizenship at birth was introduced by Rep. Elton Gallegy, a Simi Valley Republican who now leads the House immigration subcommittee. The bill died quietly, attracting only one co-sponsor.

But by late last summer, shortly after the furor died down surrounding Arizona's SB 1070 as the stringent anti-illegal immigration bill headed to federal court, talk of ending birthright citizenship resumed anew. Plans emerged either to amend the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which grants citizenship to those born on U.S. soil, or to seek a judicial reinterpretation.

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