Immigration is emerging as one of the major issues in the presidential campaign in America. While a majority of American citizens do not support birthright citizenship, a significant percent of Americans want the law to be changed to prohibit children of those who are not legal residents from becoming citizens.
According to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, 37% of Americans favour changing the Constitution to end birthright citizenship while about 60% of Americans are opposed to this idea.
Birthright citizenship of America
Birthright citizenship is granted to virtually all children who are born on American soil, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. This right derives from the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This right allows children born to illegal immigrant parents to automatically become American citizens.
Birthright citizenship is considered to be one of the biggest attractions for illegal immigration. At present, one out of ten births in America is to a mother who is an illegal immigrant.
14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “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 where they reside.”
The 14th Amendment was the post-Civil War amendment that granted the right to non-white people to become American citizens. This Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is considered to be the bedrock of racial equality as it guaranteed the rights of the Black people on the American soil.
Awareness regarding birthright citizenship
There is a wide awareness regarding birthright citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants in the U.S. 90% are aware that such children automatically become American citizens. About four out of ten (37%) Americans want the Constitution to be changed so that parents have to be legal residents of America for their new-born child to be American citizen while the majority of the rest favour leaving the Constitution as it is.
Support for birthright citizenship
It is mostly the Whites (44%) who are in favour of changing the Constitution to bring an end to birthright citizenship. Predictably, African Americans are tremendously opposed to changing the amendment that makes them citizens. No wonder, about 70% of the Blacks oppose altering the amendment, while only 26% support the change. Hispanics are even more opposed to the idea of the change, with 79% against it and just 17% in favour of a change in the Constitution to end birthright citizenship.
The emerging pattern of public opinion shows that people belonging to all racial groups and all age groups are opposed to the idea of changing the U.S. Constitution to end birthright citizenship.
What would happen if America ends birthright citizenship?
The general argument in favour of ending the birthright citizenship is that it would reduce illegal immigration. There will be less motivation for undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. if children born there would no longer become American citizens automatically. But some immigration experts do not agree to this idea.
The experts feel that ending birthright citizenship may increase the country’s illegal immigrant population instead of reducing it. The current undocumented population of America is estimated to be about 11.3 million, which would increase by millions if undocumented immigrants’ future children are refused citizenship rights even though they were born in the U.S. These children would have no status in America. Over a period of time, this undocumented population may increase generation wise.
Such a scenario would create socio-economic problems in the U.S. society as the children of undocumented immigrants would no longer be able to become U.S. citizens and so, will not be able to contribute to the society.
With several politicians making birthright citizenship an issue for their election campaign, it remains to be seen how American people finally react to the idea. As of now, the majority of the Americans are opposed to any change to the Constitution to end birthright citizenship.