The cry to halt “anchor baby” births is approaching fever pitch among Republican presidential hopefuls. But, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis, the number of babies born to undocumented immigrants dropped 20 percent between 2007 and 2013.
Mark Lopez, Pew’s director of Hispanic research, attributes the trend largely to economics.
Births to undocumented immigrants rose sharply from 30,000 in 1980 to a peak of 370,000 in 2006 while the economy was booming, then took a dive with the onset of the recession, he said. Since 2007, there have been few jobs to lure young people across the border. Meanwhile, the immigrants who already illegally hopped the border have aged and finished having babies.
Claiming the 14th Amendment, which grants such children automatic U.S. citizenship, promotes illegal immigration, politicians have argued for years to revise the Constitution with little success. Less than a year ago, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) tried to get a bill passed to end “birthright citizenship” but was only able to get 27 far-right Republican House members to sign on.
Among the general population, just 39 percent are on board with putting an end to birthright citizenship, according to Pew. Fifty-seven percent think it’s a bad idea.
But ever since Donald Trump unveiled his immigration-reform plan, including a proposal to deny the children of undocumented immigrants citizenship, Republicans seem to be falling in line.
“A woman gets pregnant," Trump said during Wednesday's GOP debate. "She’s nine months, she walks across the border, she has the baby in the United States, and we take care of the baby for 85 years. I don’t think so."
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal voiced his support for the proposal, as did Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). Even U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who’s usually good for a throw-down with Trump, conceded: “Well, I hate to say it, but Donald Trump has a bit of a point here.”
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To the campaigners' credit, although birth rates are declining, Pew reports undocumented immigrants, who represent about 4 percent of the U.S. population, still do have a higher share of births (about 8 percent).
But Lopez said that’s because immigrants also have a higher share of women in their childbearing years and tend to have more children than the overall population — not because of high immigration rates.
“Looking at the data,” Lopez said, “It certainly doesn’t seem like pregnant women are rushing over the border.”