The drastic economic costs of 'birthright' citizenship

NRO's Ian Tuttle totes up the cost of birthright citizenship to the American taxpayer and, to no one's surprise, discovers that the massive benefits paid out to families with anchor babies results in a boom in "birth tourism."

According to Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) legal policy analyst Jon Feere, who testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security in April, between 350,000 and 400,000 children are born annually to an illegal-alien mother residing in the United States — as many as one in ten births nationwide. As of 2010, four out of five children of illegal aliens residing in the U.S. were born here — some 4 million kids. Reporting that finding, the Pew Research Center noted that, while illegal immigrants make up about 4 percent of the adult population, “because they have high birthrates, their children make up a much larger share of both the newborn population (8 percent) and the child population (7 percent) in this country.”

The cost of this is not negligible. Inflation-adjusted figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected that a child born in 2013 would cost his parents $304,480 from birth to his eighteenth birthday. Given that illegal-alien households are normally low-income households (three out of five illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children live at or near the poverty line), one would expect that a significant portion of that cost will fall on the government. And that’s exactly what‘s happening. According to CIS, 71 percent of illegal-alien headed households with children received some sort of welfare in 2009, compared with 39 percent of native-headed houses with children. Illegal immigrants generally access welfare programs through their U.S.-born children, to whom government assistance is guaranteed. Additionally, U.S.-born children of illegal aliens are entitled to American public schools, health care, and more, even though illegal-alien households rarely pay taxes.

The short-term cost of “anchor babies” was revealed a decade ago in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. “‘Anchor babies’ born to illegal aliens instantly qualify as citizens for welfare benefits and have caused enormous rises in Medicaid costs and stipends under Supplemental Security Income and Disability Income,” wrote medical attorney Madeleine Pelner Cosman. She noted the increasingly costly situation in California:

In 2003 in Stockton, California, 70 percent of the 2,300 babies born in San Joaquin General Hospital’s maternity ward were anchor babies, and 45 percent of Stockton children under age six are Latino (up from 30 percent in 1993). In 1994, 74,987 anchor babies in California hospital maternity units cost $215 million and constituted 36 percent of all Medi-Cal [California’s Medicaid program] births. Now [2005] they account for substantially more than half.

The long-term costs of birthright citizenship are even more dramatic.  Each anchor baby can sponsor family members once he or she reaches a certain age.  Of course, when they arrive, those family members will also suck up state and federal resources. 

Tuttle doesn't think it possible that current law regarding anchor babies can be changed.  Others disagree.  But this is one debate where, if Republicans can mount a coherent argument that speaks to the abuse of birthright citizenship, most Americans will be on their side.

NRO's Ian Tuttle totes up the cost of birthright citizenship to the American taxpayer and, to no one's surprise, discovers that the massive benefits paid out to families with anchor babies results in a boom in "birth tourism."

According to Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) legal policy analyst Jon Feere, who testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security in April, between 350,000 and 400,000 children are born annually to an illegal-alien mother residing in the United States — as many as one in ten births nationwide. As of 2010, four out of five children of illegal aliens residing in the U.S. were born here — some 4 million kids. Reporting that finding, the Pew Research Center noted that, while illegal immigrants make up about 4 percent of the adult population, “because they have high birthrates, their children make up a much larger share of both the newborn population (8 percent) and the child population (7 percent) in this country.”

The cost of this is not negligible. Inflation-adjusted figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected that a child born in 2013 would cost his parents $304,480 from birth to his eighteenth birthday. Given that illegal-alien households are normally low-income households (three out of five illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children live at or near the poverty line), one would expect that a significant portion of that cost will fall on the government. And that’s exactly what‘s happening. According to CIS, 71 percent of illegal-alien headed households with children received some sort of welfare in 2009, compared with 39 percent of native-headed houses with children. Illegal immigrants generally access welfare programs through their U.S.-born children, to whom government assistance is guaranteed. Additionally, U.S.-born children of illegal aliens are entitled to American public schools, health care, and more, even though illegal-alien households rarely pay taxes.

The short-term cost of “anchor babies” was revealed a decade ago in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. “‘Anchor babies’ born to illegal aliens instantly qualify as citizens for welfare benefits and have caused enormous rises in Medicaid costs and stipends under Supplemental Security Income and Disability Income,” wrote medical attorney Madeleine Pelner Cosman. She noted the increasingly costly situation in California:

In 2003 in Stockton, California, 70 percent of the 2,300 babies born in San Joaquin General Hospital’s maternity ward were anchor babies, and 45 percent of Stockton children under age six are Latino (up from 30 percent in 1993). In 1994, 74,987 anchor babies in California hospital maternity units cost $215 million and constituted 36 percent of all Medi-Cal [California’s Medicaid program] births. Now [2005] they account for substantially more than half.

The long-term costs of birthright citizenship are even more dramatic.  Each anchor baby can sponsor family members once he or she reaches a certain age.  Of course, when they arrive, those family members will also suck up state and federal resources. 

Tuttle doesn't think it possible that current law regarding anchor babies can be changed.  Others disagree.  But this is one debate where, if Republicans can mount a coherent argument that speaks to the abuse of birthright citizenship, most Americans will be on their side.