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New MPI Report: Repeal of Birthright Citizenship for U.S.-Born Children of Unauthorized Immigrants Would Add Millions to Unauthorized Population
Press Release
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New MPI Report: Repeal of Birthright Citizenship for U.S.-Born Children of Unauthorized Immigrants Would Add Millions to Unauthorized Population

WASHINGTON — Repeal of birthright citizenship for the U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants would expand the unauthorized population by at least 5 million over the next four decades using conservative demographic assumptions, according to a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report.

The report, The Demographic Impacts of Repealing Birthright Citizenship, employs standard demographic techniques to assess how passage of the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009 or changes to the 14th Amendment would affect the size of the unauthorized immigrant population through 2050.

The analysis reveals that passage of the House-introduced Birthright Citizenship Act, which would deny U.S. citizenship to children born to parents who are both unauthorized immigrants, would increase the unauthorized population from its current 10.8 million to 16 million in 2050, assuming a steady-state model.

There would be 4.7 million unauthorized immigrants as of 2050 who had been born in the United States — 1 million of whom would have two U.S.-born parents. And the share of all U.S. children in 2050 who would be unauthorized would double, from 2 percent currently to 4 percent under the proposed law.

Alternative scenarios that would limit citizenship beyond the proposed Birthright Citizenship Act — for example by denying U.S. citizenship to children with one unauthorized immigrant parent — would generate even higher unauthorized population estimates.

The unauthorized population would rise to 24 million in 2050 under a scenario in which citizenship would be denied to U.S.-born children with one unauthorized immigrant parent, even if the other parent were a citizen.

“While some are discussing an end to birthright citizenship as a means to reduce illegal immigration, such a move would in fact significantly increase the size of the unauthorized population,” said the report’s principal author, Jennifer Van Hook, a professor of sociology and demography at The Pennsylvania State University and an MPI non-resident fellow. “Even assuming an immediate and complete halt in new illegal immigration, repeal of birthright citizenship would generate a large U.S.-born unauthorized population that has the potential to grow over time.”

MPI Senior Vice President and Director of Studies Michael Fix, a co-author, said: “What is less commonly understood in the current birthright citizenship debate is that repeal would set in motion the creation of a self-perpetuating class of unauthorized immigrants.”

Under a scenario denying birthright citizenship to children with at least one unauthorized immigrant parent, by the third generation, 6.3 million U.S.-born people would be unauthorized despite having two U.S.-born parents.

“This perpetuation of hereditary disadvantage based on the legal status of one’s ancestors would be unprecedented in U.S. immigration law,” Fix said.

The report is available here.


The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels.