Accuracy in Media

Another major flaw in the Senate immigration bill is the failure to repeal the provision that babies born to illegal aliens in the U.S. get automatic U.S. citizenship. This is known as birthright citizenship.

Birthright citizenship is one of the media’s powerful tools to advance the Senate immigration bill. The media use young children, even babies, as showpieces, arguing that if the government does not legalize, or grant amnesty to their parents, then these children will be left without mothers and fathers if their parents are deported. It’s one sob story after another.

An example was a May 20, 2007, article in the Washington Post Style section using a color half-page photo that covered the entire upper fold of the front page with the picture of a young girl crying while being held in her mother’s arms. The photo ran with the headline “Poster Child.” It showed a March 7 photo of 2-year-old Tomasa Mendez, “crying in her mother’s arms because her father was suspected of being in the U.S. illegally…” Mendez was born here; her parents were not. Her father was taken into custody by immigration authorities for doing illegal work at a Massachusetts clothing factory that makes backpacks for U.S. military personnel. The implication however was clear–that her father, and perhaps her mother, might be deported, and the poor child would be left behind.

The Post and Illegals

Notice that the Post says her father was “suspected” of being in the U.S. illegally when there is absolutely no doubt he and his wife entered the country illegally and had this child. We can’t even expect the basic facts of the story from the Post because they tend to make the parents look bad. And sympathy for illegals is a given at this paper. The Post, of course, is the paper associated with the Philip L. Graham Fund, which provided funds to Casa de Maryland, an illegal alien support group.

The Post exploits the little girl, Tomasa, and calls her photo “iconic” of the immigration debate, rather than use photos of illegal aliens climbing over border fences, or of illegal alien terrorists that were responsible for planning terrorist attacks here on U.S. soil, or of illegal alien sex predators, or of the illegal aliens that commit crimes here in the U.S.

This is the face–a crying girl–that pro-illegal alien supporters and illegal aliens themselves are using to support their cause. The Post even claims that Tomasa has come to “symbolize” the national debate on immigration. According to the Post, “thousands of posters and fliers featuring Tomasa’s tearful visage” have been made to influence the public and Congress and that the same photo was used on “placards carried by marchers at immigrant-rights rallies from Denver to New York to Washington.”

But Tomasa is not the face of immigrant rights; she is the child of illegal aliens. Tomasa lives in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and on March 6, ICE agents raided a factory there and detained 361 workers that the Post calls “suspected of being in this country illegally,” including Tomasa’s father, Hector Mendez. The factory that the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) raided where 361 suspected illegal aliens were working was Michael Bianco Inc.

This is not a case of innocent until proven guilty. Tomasa’s mother Dominga asked the Post to not print her last name, which is different from her husband’s, “for fear that authorities would detect her own undocumented status.” In other words, she’s an illegal, too. Dominga and Hector came to the U.S. from Guatemala six years ago, and had Tomasa on U.S. soil, making her a U.S. citizen. They are responsible for their own plight. They knowingly violated U.S. laws.

A spokesperson for ICE, Pat Reilly, responded to the Post’s insinuation that the government is to blame for the girl’s predicament. Reilly said, “You should look back to the decision the parents made in coming to this country without legal status.”

The Plan

These families knew exactly what they were doing when they came to the U.S. and had a child born on U.S. soil. And we know and understand exactly what they’re doing. For illegal immigrants, having a child born in the U.S. becomes the Golden Ticket to staying here in this country. Numbers USA calls these children of illegal alien mothers “anchor babies” because they become eligible to sponsor for legal immigration most of their relatives, including their illegal-alien mothers, when they turn 21 years of age, thus becoming the U.S. “anchor” for an extended immigrant family.

Although birthright citizenship was never intended to be the law of the land, and is a flawed interpretation of the 14th Amendment, birthright citizenship accounts for more than 380,000 children each year, born to illegal alien mothers that become citizens simply because their mothers gave birth on U.S. soil.

However, even this figure could be low. The Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates there are between 287,000 and 363,000 children born to illegal aliens each year. These numbers are based on the crude birth rate of the total foreign-born population (33 births per 1,000) and official estimates of the size of the illegal alien population–between 8.7 and 11 million.

However, the Bear Stearns investment firm and others have concluded that the actual number of illegal aliens in the United States could be as high as 20 million. When using the higher estimate of 20 million illegal immigrants and FAIR’s 33 births per 1,000, this would roughly double FAIR’s estimate to approximately 574,000 to 726,000 anchor babies born in the U.S. each year.

Having a child born in the U.S. does not prevent the illegal alien mother or father from being deported. But this rarely occurs, especially for the illegal alien mother. Numbers USA reports that “In some cases, immigration judges make exceptions for the parents on the basis of their U.S.-born children and grant the parents legal status. In many cases, though, immigration officials choose not to initiate removal proceedings against illegal aliens with U.S.-born children, so they simply remain here illegally.”

The real solution is for the illegal alien parents to return to their native countries with their children. That avoids the potential or theoretical problem of deportation.

Focusing on another such case, Dimitri Vassilaros of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review asks, “…is there even one American standing in the way of an alien family leaving intact to return to its country of origin? Deportation threatens unity only when a foreigner would rather be here illegally than back home preserving his family. Many Americans believe in traditional family values. It’s too bad more illegals don’t.”

Illegal aliens have a child in the U.S., according to Professors Peter Schuck and Rogers Smith, because “The present guarantee under American law of automatic birthright citizenship to the children of illegal aliens can operate…as one more incentive to illegal migration and violation by nonimmigrant aliens already here [.] When this attraction is combined with the powerful lure of the expanded entitlements conferred upon citizen children and their families by the modern welfare state, the total incentive effect of birthright citizenship may well become significant.”

Exploiting America

The provision is being used by people all over the world. According to Numbers USA, “Thousands of pregnant women who are about to deliver come to the United States each year from countries as far away as South Korea and as near as Mexico so that they can give birth on U.S. soil.” These expectant mothers come either on legal travel visas or illegally across the border, but the purpose is always the same: “Once the child is born, they get a U.S. birth certificate and passport for the child, and their future link to this country is established and irreversible.”

To compound this problem, those mothers who illegally enter the U.S. to have their anchor babies have little to no health insurance. But they will not be turned away from hospitals because the law requires that they be treated. All uninsured people, regardless of citizenship, receive medical care in hospital emergency rooms under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1985 (EMTALA). The act requires hospitals to treat any patient that enters an emergency room for “emergency care,” which can include anything from a cough to drug addiction to a gunshot wound to depression to being HIV-positive. The Act requires emergency rooms to treat anyone that comes in, but does not require patients to pay for their care.

Instead, the costs are passed on to the American taxpayers and those with health insurance through rising premiums. Some hospitals can’t afford the care for the illegals.

According to Marjorie Greenfield, MD, on the Dr. Spock website, in 2001 the average cost of having a baby in the U.S. ranged from $6,000 to $8,000 for a normal vaginal delivery and $10,000 to $12,000 for a cesarean birth. If the $8,000 cost is used for 2007 births, and all 380,000 babies born to illegal immigrants in the U.S. all had normal deliveries, this would cost hospitals around the country approximately $3 billion. But if there are 726,000 anchor babies born in the U.S. each year, the cost skyrockets to nearly $6 billion.

And if there are any complications with the pregnancy, or if the child is born prematurely and needs to be admitted into a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the cost rises by tens of thousands of dollars.

Illegal alien mothers aren’t the only ones benefiting. There are reports that some pregnant Mexicans are entering the U.S. for the sole purpose of giving birth and having the costs paid for by Americans. A survey conducted by the University of California found that of new Hispanic mothers in California border hospitals, 15 percent had crossed the border specifically to give birth.


It has been argued that the legal basis for birthright citizenships derives from the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although the original intent of the 14th Amendment was to give former slaves citizenship after the Civil War including the right to due process, the Amendment has gone on to have far-reaching implications beyond the intent of the writers. The specific part that is being used to justify birthright citizenship comes from Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment which 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.”

The question though is whether illegal aliens are “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Illegal aliens do not have the right to vote in federal elections, do not have to register for the draft, and do not pay taxes, unlike American citizens, because they are foreign nationals living within the borders of the United States. However, supporters of birthright citizenship claim that the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States has no real meaning and is just another way of saying “born in the United States.” For illegal alien supporters, they believe the Fourteenth Amendment requires that any child born on U.S. soil be granted U.S. citizenship.

However, as Numbers USA points out, scholars “have looked to the original Senate debate over the Fourteenth Amendment to determine its meaning. They conclude that the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment did NOT want to grant citizenship to every person who happened to be born on U.S. soil.”

Numbers USA concludes that “The jurisdiction requirement was added to the original draft of the Fourteenth Amendment by the Senate after a lengthy and acrimonious debate. In fact, Senator Jacob Merritt Howard of Michigan proposed the addition of the phrase specifically because he wanted to make clear that the simple accident of birth in the United States was not sufficient to justify citizenship…Sen. Howard said that ‘this will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.'”

Even though it is a misinterpretation of a Constitutional amendment passed almost 40 years ago, the Supreme Court has never decided the issue. According to Numbers USA, the closest the Supreme Court has come to ruling on the matter was “a case involving the U.S.-born child of lawful permanent residents in which, of course, it held the child to be a U.S. citizen.” Therefore, without a ruling by the Supreme Court, or congressional action to end this practice, the status quo remains and anyone born on U.S. soil even though their mother is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States will continue to be given citizenship.

Time for Action

The practice of birthright citizenship has been all but done away with in the industrial world. According to the New York Times, in June, 2004, Ireland, which was the last country in the European Union to still grant citizenship to anyone born in the country regardless of where the parents come from, overwhelmingly approved a plan to do away with a constitutional provision granting automatic Irish citizenship to any child born in Ireland. The United Kingdom, which has struggled with a growing Muslim and Southeast Asian population, ended birthright citizenship in 1981. Due to immigration pressures, it restricted birthright citizenship to requiring that one parent be a legal resident.

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) introduced H.R. 1940, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2007, which would eliminate birthright citizenship for the children born to illegal aliens in the United States by limiting the granting of such citizenship to the children of: U.S. citizens or nationals; lawful permanent resident aliens residing in the United States; and aliens performing active service in the armed forces. On April 19, 2007 the bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. The bill has only 46 co-sponsors in the U.S. House, listed here.

No “reform” of the immigration system will be complete without the provisions of the Deal bill becoming law. But the media, led by the illegal alien-supporting Washington Post, will fight any such change every step of the way.

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