GOP Presidential candidates are advocating for an end to birthright citizenship. If they are successful, the US will face major economic and social hardship.
This year Vivek Ramaswamy has joined Donald Trump and Ron de Santis in proclaiming that children born to undocumented migrants should no longer be allowed legal citizenship. Sometimes derogatorily referred to as “anchor babies,” these children pave the way towards legal status for their parents, incentivizing illegal immigration. Detractors to this position cite the unconstitutionality and legal impossibility of changing Section 5 of the 14th Amendment, which would consist in ending the right of those born on U.S. soil to obtain American citizenship. Regardless of its legal feasibility, ending birthright citizenship would be counterproductive for the economy and social cohesion of this country.
The notion of birthright citizenship, or ius solis (the right of soil), is rooted in Roman and English traditions. Since its conception in ancient Rome, birthright citizenship has served pragmatic economic purposes to build and maintain the domains of an empire. Gaining more skilled workers gave an empire competitive advantages over other kingdoms. The same principle applies today, and given the state of the American labor force, the United States needs to uphold the tradition of ius solis now more than ever.
America is facing a labor shortage. We have 1.7 jobs available for every one person looking for work, which leaves around 4.7 million more jobs available than there are working age people to fill them. Industries ranging from agriculture to AI report having a hard time hiring workers, and losing labor means losing productivity, innovation, and economic growth.
America’s median age is also higher than it’s ever been with this year’s census data reporting an increase to 38. This increase in the median age is not simply due to longer lifespans, but because of decreasing fertility rates. We are well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per 1,000 women, with a reported fertility rate of 1.66 children per 1,000 women in 2022. To sustain our economic growth, we need more young people to work, pay taxes, and maintain Social Security services.
Halting birthright citizenship would be counterproductive to our demographic needs. We don’t just need more workers; we need more legal citizens who will live out their lives serving and upholding America’s economy. Ending birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants in the country would only increase the number of undocumented individuals in America, increasing the burden on our economy where we could be benefiting from their contribution. This is not fertile soil for progress and prosperity. Instead of excluding these people from the country and shunning their kids into a life of illegality, we should be welcoming their kids into our society.
A study by the Migration Policy Institute estimated that under a hypothetical alteration of the Fourteenth Amendment that denied citizenship to those born to one or two undocumented parents, the United States could lose up to 13.5 million citizens. Given our median age and fertility rates, we cannot afford these scenarios if we are to remain an economic powerhouse.
Although the numbers in this study were merely estimates, in every possible scenario, the U.S. loses future citizens. Keeping these future U.S. citizens from citizenship guarantees the already-negative path to destruction for this country. To help our economic and social shortages, we can’t afford to lose these citizens.