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U.S. Rep. John Carter told reporters Monday he's sympathetic to concerns simmering in some circles over the first part of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which holds that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens."
At issue: Whether providing citizenship for being born on U.S. soil makes sense amid turmoil over illegal immigration.
In Monday’s conference call, organized by the Republican National Committee to generate heat over President Barack Obama's in-and-out visit to Texas, Carter went on to say the United States "may be, or probably (is) the only nation in the world that has a provision where if you are born in our country, no matter whether you are here legally or illegally, you are still considered a United States citizen." Asked about his comment a moment later, Carter didn't hedge; he said he thinks it's correct that "we are the only country in the world that affords citizenship" to children born to parents illegally in the country when their child is born here.
If so, Carter, R-Round Rock, thinks wrong — as PolitiFact National concluded about a similar June 2009 statement by conservative pundit Glenn Beck, rating False Beck's statement that we're the only country in the world that has automatic citizenship for individuals born here.
Citing a list posted online by NumbersUSA, a group that favors reducing immigration into the United States, PolitiFact wrote: "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."
This wrap up our Carter review?
Not quite. Bill Riggs, the RNC's spokesman, telephoned after Monday's call and said Carter means the United States is "one of the few industrialized nations" that afford citizenship for anyone born here. When we reached Carter's communications director, John Stone, he said likewise.
Stone followed up with an e-mail stating that 34 nations allow birthright citizenship.
"Note the lack of all major Western industrialized nations with the exception of Canada. None of the nations of the European Union (or the countries of) Japan or China recognize birthright citizenship," Stone’s e-mail said. "These facts confirm Congressman's Carter's frequent statement that the United States is one of the few nations that allow birthright citizenship."
Stone didn't immediately say how he came up with the list. Separately, we reached Jon Feere, legal policy analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies, which has studied the costs of illegal immigration. Feere said he's completing a report on birthright citizenship including a breakdown of, to this point, 27 nations that grant automatic citizenship to children born to illegal residents. Feere said he built his list based on conversations with foreign government officials.
Canada has automatic birthright citizenship, according to Feere's breakdown, while Mexico provides for automatic Mexican "nationality." Latin and South American nations predominate on the list;. they include Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Feere said in an e-mail: "No European country has such a policy. The only advanced economies in the world with birthright citizenship policies are the United States and Canada." He pointed us to the International Monetary Fund's classification of nation's economies as advanced, emerging and developing countries, demonstrating that the only nations with advanced economies that provide for birthright citizenship are Canada and the United States.
So, how does Carter's statement come out?
As researched by PolitiFact in 2009, Carter's initial statement (which he reaffirmed) that the United States is the only nation that provides citizenship to children born here regardless of their parents' immigration status is incorrect. Yet the RNC’s Riggs quickly amended Carter’s statement to say he means the United States is among a few industrial nations with such a provision; that's accurate.
It’s good that the GOP spokesman reeled back on the congressman’s mistake. Still, we rate Carter's initial statement False.
E-mail and interview, Jon Feere, legal policy analyst, Center for Immigration Studies, Aug. 9, 2010
FindLaw, U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment, (accessed Aug. 9, 2010)
International Monetary Fund, website, "World Economic Outlook Database—WEO Groups and Aggregates Information," (accessed Aug. 9, 2010)
Interview, audio file, U.S. Rep. John Carter, telephone conference call, Republican National Committee, Aug. 9, 2010
Interview, Bill Riggs, press secretary, Republican National Committee, Aug. 9, 2010
Interview and e-mail, John Stone, communications director, U.S. Rep. John Carter, Aug. 9, 2010
NumbersUSA, "Nations Granting Birthright Citizenship," (accessed Aug. 9, 2010)
PolitiFact, Truth-O-Meter article,"Glenn Beck, on anchor babies, claims U.S. is only country with automatic citizenship upon birth," June 19, 2009 (accessed Aug. 9, 2010)
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