Following the release of a dubious report on "birth tourism" by the Center For Immigration Studies, Andrew Breitbart's website Big Peace highlighted the study's conclusions that hundreds of thousands of women visiting the United States give birth to babies here each year and that some of them are likely "terror babies" who will eventually use their U.S. citizenship to attack the United States in 20 to 30 years.
Breitbart Website: " 'Terror Babies': A Growing National Security Threat"
Big Peace Attacks Birthright Citizenship By Touting Dubious New Study On So-Called "Terror Babies." In a post on Andrew Breitbart's website Big Peace titled, " 'Terror Babies': A Growing National Security Threat," contributor Jason Bradley wrote:
The nation's immigration policy debate has entered into a new stage. What's being questioned is rather children of legal but visiting "non-immigrant" parents allowed birthright citizenship. Apparently, this happens more than realized. Temporary visitors such as students, workers, and extended stay visitors give birth to 200,000 babies each year in the US. Hence, the term birth tourism. Most notably among these children are Anwar al-Awlaki and Yaser Esam Hamdi. This special category has been rightfully dubbed "Terror Babies." [Big Peace, 3/21/11]
NRO's Krikorian: "There's More To Birthright Citizenship Than You Think." In a blog post for National Review Online titled, "There's More To Birthright Citizenship Than You Think," contributor Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, touted his organization's report. He wrote that "there's a whole other part of the problem" of birthright citizenship, which "has focused on children born here to illegal aliens." Krikorian continued:
[T]here's a whole other part of the problem -- children born here to legal, but temporary, visitors. Not green card holders, who as permanent residents are best seen as candidate-members of the American people and whose children should definitely be citizens at birth. The issue, rather, is about "non-immigrants," foreigners here temporarily as tourists, students, workers, whatever. In this regard, the issue of birth tourism has gotten attention lately, as has the citizenship status of terrorists like Anwar al-Awlaki and Yaser Esam Hamdi, both born in the U.S. to visitors but raised entirely abroad, who've tried to use their nominal citizenship to protect themselves from justice.
But the number of such people never seemed likely to be that large, so what was the big deal? Well, a new CIS report by a pseudonymous government employee with extensive knowledge of such matters estimates that nearly 200,000 people are born each year in the United States to "non-immigrants" -- i.e., foreigners here on some kind of temporary status. We have a piece upcoming on possible solutions, many of which wouldn't require changing our interpretation of the Constitution, but the first decision policymakers face is whether they think it's a good idea to give away United States citizenship promiscuously to any child born here to a Latvian tourist or Japanese student or a Mexican Border-Crossing Card holder, who then promptly leaves and raises the child in a foreign country. [National Review Online, The Corner, 3/16/11]
NY Daily News: "Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert Warns Of Baby-Making Terrorists Coming To US" In 20 To 30 Years. From a June 27, 2010, NY Daily News article headlined, "Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert Warns Of Baby-Making Terrorists Coming To US":
Al-Qaeda may have infiltrated the womb.
In a speech on the floor of the House last week Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert warned about an insidious plot by terror organizations to infiltrate the US with pregnant woman.
According to Gohmert, the plan is that women would give birth to terrorist babies who can then return to wreak havoc on the US once they come of age.
"It appeared that [the terrorists] would have young women, who became pregnant, would get them into the United States to have a baby," Gohmert said. "And then they would turn back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists."
Gohmert cited a retired FBI agent as his inside source on the baby conspiracy plot.
"And then one day, twenty, thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life," he said.
The Texas Republican thinks these babies may destroy us in the end.
"They figured out how stupid we are being in this country to allow our enemies to game our system," Gohmert said. "We won't do anything about it we'll even sue a state that tries to do something about it." [New York Daily News, 6/27/10]
Dubious CIS Report: "Birthright Citizenship For The Children Of Visitors: A National Security Problem In The Making?"
CIS Report Estimates That "Nearly 200,000 Children Are Born Here Annually To Foreign Women Admitted As Visitors." In a CIS recent report titled, "Birthright Citizenship for the Children of Visitors: A National Security Problem in the Making?" an unnamed "retired government employee" using the pseudonym "W.D. Reasoner" wrote:
Observers have begun to focus on the fact that, with some frequency, pregnant women cross the border illegally with the specific intent to bear their children in the United States, thus gaining for the children the gift of citizenship and ultimately a legal foothold for the parents and siblings as well when the child is old enough (21 years of age) to file a petition on their behalf for permanent resident alien status. In addition, if the child marries a foreign national, then of course he or she is entitled to petition for the spouse without regard to age, providing the marriage is recognized as valid under the laws of the state or country where it occurred. And, once resident status has been gained, that spouse can then petition for her or his immediate relatives, ad infinitum.
This Backgrounder examines the issue of births to short-term visitors. The author estimates that nearly 200,000 children are born here annually to foreign women admitted as visitors; that is, tourists, students, guestworkers, and other non-immigrant categories. There is a national security dimension to this issue, as illustrated by the case of one individual in this category: Anwar al Awlaki, the American-born cleric and spiritual advisor to terrorists.
In the context of our overall population, 192,100 children born to non-immigrant entrants in a single year may not seem overly large, but it must be added to the estimated number of children born of illegal aliens (300,000-400,000) yearly. And the question of whether children born in the United States of foreign students, tourists, exchange visitors, and casual border crossers should have bestowed on them so freely and casually the gift of citizenship, with all its attendant rights and privileges, is not simply an intellectual-cum-statistical exercise. [Center for Immigration Studies, "Birthright Citizenship for the Children of Visitors: A National Security Problem in the Making?" March/2011]
CIS Study Relied On "Fertility [Rate] Of Recently Arrived Foreign-Born Women" Aged 18-35 To Come Up With Estimate. In the study, the author settled on his 192,100 estimated number by calculating the fertility rate "of recently arrived foreign-born women" aged 18-35 in 2009 and applying that rate uniformly to each category of nonimmigrant foreigners admitted to the United States. From the study [references to citations removed for clarity]:
How do we take the next step and reasonably calculate what percentage of these women might in fact give birth? One way is to look at the fertility of recently arrived foreign-born women. According to U.S. Census data, in 2009, 5 percent of all foreign-born women aged 18 to 35 who arrived within the last year reported giving birth during the year. If we apply this fertility rate to the tourist population, we find that there could be as many as 39,000 births annually to women who have arrived as tourists.
Another way to estimate the number of annual births to this group is to apply the birth rate for recently arrived foreign-born women to the DHS estimates of the stock short-term resident population. Using this method, we find that there are an estimated 1,180,000 resident non-immigrants aged 18-34, of whom 43 percent are estimated to be women, leaving a potential child-bearing population of 507,400. Using our estimated fertility rate, that would suggest births to this population of about 25,370 per year. But we are not yet done with our calculations.
[F]or the purposes of this analysis, our population of interest is the population of Mexican Border Crossing Card holders. The exact number of card holders is not known, but it is estimated to number about nine million. To arrive at the female population of child-bearing age, it seems reasonable to adopt the age (29.6 percent) and gender (47.3 percent) parameters pertaining to the previously described "non-resident" category of non-immigrant admissions because Mexican border crossers are fundamentally visitors for business or pleasure; they simply haven't been required to tender a Form I-94 in order to gain entry. Using that logic, we reach an estimate of 1.26 million women in the principal child-bearing ages who have been issued a Border Crossing Card.
It also remains relevant to apply a fertility rate against the overall number of estimated entrants, so again using the average fertility rate for recently arrived Mexican women in the United States of 10.7 percent, we arrive at the figure of 134,820 potential birthright citizen children being born to Mexican border crossers each year. [Center for Immigration Studies, "Birthright Citizenship for the Children of Visitors: A National Security Problem in the Making?" March/2011]
CIS Study: Anwar Al-Awlaki "Is A Product Of Our Current Lax ... Birthright Citizenship Rules." As an example of the "real consequences" that "can attach to birthright citizenship," the study's author cited American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki was recently sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison by a judge in Yemen on terrorism-related charges, and, as the study noted, he reportedly inspired would-be bombers Umar Abdulmutallab and Faisal Shahzad. The author continued:
But it is easy to envision an entirely different and chilling scenario. Imagine a young man born in the United States of non-immigrant parents and taken away at a very early age, reared in Waziristan, educated in Islamist madrassas and trained in the fundamentals of terror at one of the many camps in Southwestern Asia; someone who has flown under the radar of U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies and is therefore unknown to them. He would be entitled to walk into any American embassy or consulate worldwide, bearing a certified copy of his birth certificate and apply for -- indeed, demand -- a U.S. passport. That passport would entitle him to enter and reside in the United States whenever and wherever he chose, secretly harboring his hatred, an unknown sleeper agent of al Qaeda or any of the other multitude of terrorist organizations with an anti-Western bias and a violent anti-American agenda, waiting for the call to arms.
Nor is the potential damage limited only to the American homeland. A U.S. passport is the gold standard for would-be international terrorists, giving them ready access to virtually any country on earth where they may elect to set up operations -- say against American diplomats, corporate interests, or even tourists. [Center for Immigration Studies, "Birthright Citizenship for the Children of Visitors: A National Security Problem in the Making?" March/2011]
CIS Study Fearmongers About Possibility Of Terror Babies. In his conclusion, the study's pseudonymous author wrote:
It would be easy to dismiss the threat by pointing to the likely predominant ethnic and national background of a birthright child's parents -- quite possibly Hispanic, quite possibly Mexican or Canadian -- and to assert therefore that the chance that such a child will become a terrorist is small. Doing so would be dangerous and fundamentally inaccurate. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other international terrorist organizations actively proselytize and recruit across all racial, ethnic, religious, economic, and nationality divides. It is in their interest to do so. One need only consider the cases of John Walker Lindh and Jose Padilla, among others, to recognize their skill in winning converts among the disaffected.
Whatever the number of birthright children born each year of undocumented immigrants, border crossers, and nonimmigrant visitors, we must ask ourselves: is it reasonable to assume that those individuals will share our societal values or our worldview, or appreciate the accident of birth that accords them the right to come and go through American borders and among American communities as they choose, as "one of us"? Or is doing so an example of American hubris and naiveté of the worst sort, one which may come back to bite us in the long run? And if so, will we then mistakenly view the terrorist acts and attempts committed by such persons to be "homegrown" when they were absolutely avoidable?
While such extreme examples as al Awlaki may be rare, we should remember that it only took 19 fanatics bent on mass murder to instigate two wars and to fundamentally alter American domestic security, foreign policy -- even our notion of ourselves as a society.
In an open and honest discussion we as a society should begin by asking ourselves, do we as Americans undervalue our own citizenship by giving it away so freely, and is the generosity of spirit with which we have chosen to interpret the Fourteenth Amendment truly in our national interest and security? [Center for Immigration Studies, "Birthright Citizenship for the Children of Visitors: A National Security Problem in the Making?" March/2011]
CIS Is Dedicated To A "Low Immigration" America. From the CIS website:
The data collected by the Center during the past quarter-century has led many of our researchers to conclude that current, high levels of immigration are making it harder to achieve such important national objectives as better public schools, a cleaner environment, homeland security, and a living wage for every native-born and immigrant worker. These data may support criticism of US immigration policies, but they do not justify ill feelings toward our immigrant community. In fact, many of us at the Center are animated by a "low-immigration, pro-immigrant" vision of an America that admits fewer immigrants but affords a warmer welcome for those who are admitted. [Center for Immigration Studies, accessed 3/22/11]
- CIS Executive Director Krikorian Has A History Of Controversial Remarks. In September 2008, Krikorian asked if diversity policies touted by Washington Mutual were the "[c]ause" of the bank's collapse. In a May 27, 2009, National Review Online post, Krikorian wrote of the pronunciation of then-Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's name, "It Sticks in My Craw." In a February 17, 2010, NRO post, Krikorian discussed how to get immigrants to "vote more like other Americans, i.e., more Republican." In January, Krikorian wrote, "My guess is that Haiti's so screwed up because it wasn't colonized long enough." [Media Matters, 4/16/11]
Reports On "Birth Tourism" Put Numbers Far Below CIS' Estimate
Reason Foundation Analyst: "Actual Instances Of 'Birth Tourism' ... Accounted For About Two-Tenths Of 1 Percent Of All Births In 2006." In an article for Reason.com headlined, "The Bogus Case Against Birthright Citizenship," Shikha Dalmia, Reason Foundation senior analyst and columnist for The Daily, wrote about the push by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) "to clamp down on undocumented aliens, especially by denying automatic or 'birthright' citizenship to their children -- a right enshrined in the 14th Amendment." Dalmia went on to write:
The 14th Amendment was written, among other things, to prevent Confederate states from denying citizenship to newly freed blacks. What comparable injustice would amending this amendment prevent? Restrictionists claim that birthright citizenship encourages pregnant women to illegally sneak into the U.S. for a just-in-time delivery so that their newborns can gain citizenship and later sponsor them for citizenship. They call these kids "anchor babies."
But Time magazine reported last year that of all the babies born in 2008 to at least one unauthorized parent, over 80 percent were to moms who had been in the United States for over one year. Actual instances of "birth tourism," where moms expressly came here to deliver babies on American soil, accounted for about two-tenths of 1 percent of all births in 2006. And most of these moms were not poor, illegal Hispanics -- Smith's target group. They were rich Chinese moms on tourist visas.
Nor is it plausible that their intention was to use their kids to gain citizenship for themselves. Kids have to wait until 21 to seek legal status for illegal parents and the parents must typically then wait outside the US for at least 10 years before they can obtain their green cards. About 4,000 unauthorized parents with kids who are citizens can avoid deportation every year. [Reason.com, 3/16/11]
Pew Hispanic Center: 91 Percent Of Undocumented Immigrants Who Gave Birth In 2009-2010 Came To U.S. Before 2007. In an study examining the unauthorized immigrant population, the Pew Hispanic Center examined "year-of-arrival patterns for unauthorized immigrant parents of babies born from March 2009 to March 2010, to see how long the parents had been in the United States before their children were born. If year of arrival was available for both parents, the analysis used the most recently arrived parent." The study found that "9% of these unauthorized immigrants who had babies in 2009-2010 had arrived in the U.S. in 2008 or later. An additional 30% arrived from 2004 to 2007, and the remaining 61% arrived in the United States before 2004." [Pew Hispanic Center, 2/1/11]
Pew Analyst: Of Babies Born To Undocumented Immigrants In 2008, "85 Percent Of The Parents Had Been In The Country For More Than A Year." In an article headlined, " 'Birth Tourism' A Tiny Portion Of Immigrant Babies," the Associated Press reported: "While a recent Pew Hispanic Center study shows 8 percent of the 4.3 million babies born in the U.S. in 2008 had at least one illegal parent, a closer examination shows that most children of illegal immigrants are born to parents like Garcia who have made the United States their home for years." The article continued:
Out of 340,000 babies born to illegal immigrants in the United States in 2008, 85 percent of the parents had been in the country for more than a year, and more than half for at least five years, Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer for Pew, told The Associated Press.
And immigration experts say it's extraordinarily rare for immigrants to come to the U.S. just so they can have babies and get citizenship. In most cases, they come for economic reasons and better hospitals, and end up staying and raising families.
Garcia's husband has been deported and she earns a living selling tamales to other immigrants who live in fear of being deported from the slapdash, impoverished colonias that dot the Texas-Mexico border.
"I think that children aren't at fault for having been born here," Garcia said. "My children always have lived here. They've never gone to another country."
Under current immigration law, Garcia and others like her don't get U.S. citizenship even though their children are Americans. [Associated Press, 9/3/10]
AP: "The Primary Reason" Women Cross The Border From Mexico "Is Better Medical Care." In the same September 2010 article, the AP further reported:
To be sure, some pregnant Mexican women do come to the United States. In border cities like Nogales, women have been coming to the U.S. for decades to give birth, although the primary reason is better medical care, Santa Cruz County sheriff Tony Estrada said. Billboards advertising birthing services in Arizona line streets across the border in Nogales, Mexico.
Tucson Medical Center, 115 miles southeast of Phoenix, offers packages designed to provide inclusive care to new mothers. The program draws some residents of the northern Mexican state of Sonora who can afford its upfront costs and already have U.S. visas, spokesman Michael Letson said.
Princeton University demographer Douglas Massey said in 30 years studying Mexican immigration, he's never interviewed a migrant who said they came to the United States just to get citizenship for their children.
"Mexicans do not come to have babies in the United States," said Massey, who blames the tightening of the border in the 1990s for cutting off normal migration of men who used to come to work for a year or two and then go home. "They end up having babies in the United States because men can no longer circulate freely back and forth from homes in Mexico to jobs in the United States and husbands and wives quite understandably want to be together." [Associated Press, 9/3/10]
ABC: According To 2006 Data, 0.17 Percent Of All Live Births Are To Nonresident Mothers. In an April 2010 article on "birth tourism," ABCNews.com reported that while "the number of U.S. births to non-resident mothers rose 53 percent between 2000 and 2006," "[o]f the 4,273,225 live births in the United States in 2006, the most recent data gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics, 7,670 were children born to mothers who said they do not live here." That statistic would translate to 0.17 percent of all live births in 2006. [ABCNews.com, 4/14/10]
NPR's Frank James: "We're Talking About A Fairly Minuscule Number" When You Look At The Statistics. On NPR's The Two-Way news blog, reporter Frank James noted the 7,670 figure cited in the ABC article and wrote: "Wait, that's less than two-tenths of one percent [of all live births]. So we're talking about a fairly minuscule number." He then cited the article's claim that "it is difficult to know for sure" how many mothers could be "birth tourists" and wrote, "So the number of possible 'birth tourists' is even a smaller subset of what was already a pretty paltry number." James concluded, "Much less dramatic an issue when looked at that way, no?" [NPR, 4/14/10]
Former FBI Official Called "Terror Babies" Claim "Ludicrous"
Ex-FBI Official: "There Was Never A Credible Report -- Or Any Report" To "Indicate That There Was Such A Plan For These Terror Babies To Be Born." Appearing on CNN to discuss whether he had "ever come across any evidence of these terror babies or anything like this," CNN contributor Tom Fuentes, the FBI's former assistant director in the office of international operations from 2004 to 2008, stated:
FUENTES: No, Anderson, never. That includes -- the FBI has 75 offices overseas, including offices in Jordan, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan. There was never a credible report -- or any report, for that matter -- coming across through all the various mechanisms of communication to indicate that there was such a plan for these terror babies to be born.
Also, I'd like to add, there seems to be a lot of former FBI agents lurking in the halls of Congress and in the legislature in the state of Texas, so I'm kind of curious about that issue as well. [CNN, 8/11/10]
Fuentes: "The Idea That They Would Somehow Grow Terrorist Babies From The Ground Up Is Ludicrous." From the CNN discussion:
COOPER: Yes, I mean, is there any likelihood that -- that this could have actually happened? I mean, does it make any sense whatsoever, the idea that 20 years from now they have some sort of plan to get kids in? I mean, frankly, it's not that hard to get U.S. citizens to attack the United States, it appears.
FUENTES: That's exactly right. It's not hard to get U.S. citizens. And not only that, Director Muller has spoken out many times publicly against the visa waiver program which means that anyone holding a European passport can come to the United States. They're six hours away by air from New York or Washington and do not require a U.S. visa.
So, they -- they not only can recruit U.S. citizens as we've seen in plot after plot or people that are already in the United States like Zazi, Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, many of these other groups, Abdulmutallab who came here on a --
FUENTES: -- on a Nigerian visa, or a U.S. visa from Nigeria, but also any of these European radicalized terrorists can fly here without a visa any time.
So, the idea that they would somehow grow terrorist babies from the ground up is ludicrous. And not only that, but I think you'd have the FBI pushing to create some type of a no pre-school list or something to address these terrible babies.
COOPER: No pre-school list, yes.
Do you think if a member of Congress is really -- really believes this, you would assume that they would call the FBI. If a member of Congress called the FBI with this theory saying they'd heard this from a former FBI agent, would the FBI inform that Congress person that they knew nothing about it or they don't think there's any legitimacy to that?
FUENTES: I think so. I think -- in this case, I think the FBI has knocked this story down completely, officially or unofficially. I think at first they didn't want to comment on it just because they didn't want to lend any credence to the people spreading it, but realized that there has to be some comment or else the no comment, you know, means there might be some secret classified information out there, but -- but there is no credible information about this particular aspect.
And something else I caught in your interview of Debbie Riddle where she says a former FBI agent informed her office. What does that mean? They talked to a receptionist? They talked to the janitor? You don't talk to an office. If an FBI agent was going to brief someone that's a public official about a sensitive matter of potential terrorism, they're not going to talk to anybody but the elected official himself or herself.
COOPER: Well, the other thing is --
FUENTES: So just that statement that somehow this was reported to the office, you know, is suspicious to me.
COOPER: The other thing that she says is that she's still gathering information, that her office is still gathering information on the facts behind it. You would think the first place they would gather information was at the actual FBI. And as you said, if they actually do call the FBI, they would be told this is absolutely completely not true so --
FUENTES: Yes, last I checked the FBI is in the phone book, so I think she could get a hold of them.
COOPER: All right. Well, hopefully, they will call the FBI if they're not willing to call us. [CNN, 8/11/10]