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On his June 10, 2009, Fox News program, host Glenn Beck raised an immigration hot button that has gained some legislative traction in recent months: the issue of whether the United States ought to continue to grant citizenship to any child born in the country, even if the parents are illegal immigrants.
"You know, the anchor baby thing has always really hacked me off," Beck said. "You know the anchor baby. You know what that is. It's when a child that is born here, becomes a citizen and they help the illegal parents become citizens, right?"
He continued, sarcastically, "Remember empathy. Oh, empathy. No one wants to separate that family. Oh, that baby is a child. It's an anchor. It's an anchor to stay here."
"Why do we have automatic citizenship upon birth?" Beck asked. "Do you know? We're the only country in the world that has it. Why?"
Beck went on to explain that the 14th amendment granting citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States" was drafted after the Civil War "to protect newly freed slaves and their children and guarantee their rights as citizens. Last I checked, I don't think we're having that problem anymore. Can we have some common sense?"
Beck touches on an issue that has caught the attention of a growing number of Republicans in Congress.
In April, Rep. Nathan Deal, a Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, proposed H.R. 1868, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009. It seeks to amend immigration law so that babies born in the United States would only be granted U.S. citizenship if one of the parents is 1) a U.S. citizen or national; 2) a legal permanent resident of the United States; or 3) is serving in the U.S. armed forces. The bill currently has 77 cosponsors, 76 Republicans and one Democrat.
Every year, about 400,000 babies are born to mothers who are undocumented immigrants in the United States, acccording to Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies. Once those children become adults, they can sponsor their parents or extended family for legal permanent residency.
Our aim is not to enter the fray over the proposed legislation but to check Beck's claim that the United States is the only country in the world that grants automatic citizenship to anyone born in the country.
And to that end, we refer to a report from NumbersUSA, a group dedicated to reducing immigration levels, and which backs Deal's bill. They found that in addition to the United States, there are 33 countries that offer automatic, unconditional citizenship to children born within their borders.
They offer several qualifiers. No European nations grant birthright citizenship (but we note that Romania is on the list). Canada is the only developed nation other than the United States. No nation in the group other than the United States has more than 200 million people. Only the United States, Pakistan and Mexico have 50 million or more. For the full list, go here .
By way of reminder, Beck said, "We're the only country in the world that has it." We might be inclined to cut Beck some slack if the only other countries were Saint Lucia, Antigua and Lesotho. In fact, we'll even admit that we had to look up what continent Lesotho is even on (Africa). But Canada, Brazil, Romania? We didn't have to go looking for those. It might be surprising to Americans that automatic citizenship isn't more common in the developed world, but the bottom line is Beck made a blanket statement that is just wrong. We rate his statement False.
AP, "Ga. congressman wants to end automatic citizenship," May 26, 2009
NumbersUSA, "Nations Granting Birthright Citizenship"
Library of Congress, H.R. 1816 Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009
CQ Transcripts,Transcript of the Glenn Beck Program, June 10, 2009
Interview with Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, June 17, 2009
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