Trump’s Birthright-Citizenship Ban Could Also Pose Risks for the Economy
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s promise to end birthright citizenship could have demographic and economic consequences for America that are potentially big but tough to quantify.
Trump told Axios in an interview he plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for the children of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on American soil. Under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, those children are citizens automatically.
Read more: About ‘Birthright Citizenship,’ Trump’s Next Battle
If Trump successfully follows through on that pledge, it could make it harder for a big swath of people to live and work in America. In doing so, it would dampen America’s major source of population growth and might ultimately weigh on the country’s economic potential. Because it isn’t clear how many people are citizens via the constitutional provision, it’s hard to estimate the effects with precision.
Immigrants and their children are expected to count for 93 percent of the growth in America’s working-age population through 2050, according to a Pew Research Center analysis from 2013.
It’s hard to guess how much ending the practice would curb those numbers. U.S. Customs and Immigration Services doesn’t collect data on how many people get citizenship by birth location, and it’s possible that immigrant children would manage to stay in the country under a visa category.
What is clear: The impact could be substantial. Just looking at undocumented parents, Pew estimates that their babies counted for 275,000 of U.S. births in 2014, roughly 7 percent of all births that year.
If the U.S.-born children of both undocumented newcomers and resident visa-holders weren’t granted automatic citizenship, it could make it harder for them to live and work in America as adults.
If they wanted to stay legally, immigrants’ children might be able to tap other pathways to citizenship. Children of permanent residents can automatically get citizenship when their parents naturalize, so that might be one avenue. Non-citizens can also apply for temporary visas and green cards as adults.
Those routes to citizenship can be challenging. Several visa categories, like H-1B and H-2Bs, are regularly maxed out. Green cards, which allow employment-based and family-sponsored immigration, are limited by eligibility requirements.
“The bigger effect would be just to turn more people who would be U.S. citizens into undocumented people,” said Jennifer Hunt, an economics professor at Rutgers University and former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor. The impact “would depend on what if anything replaced birthright citizenship.”