WASHINGTON — As many as 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 had at least one parent who was an illegal immigrant, according to a Pew Hispanic Center study of Census Bureau data.
Unauthorized immigrants, who make up a little more than 4 percent of the population, are for the most part young and have high birth rates, according to the Pew study. Their children make up 8 percent of the newborn population and 7 percent of those under 18.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, is leading an effort to change the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees US citizenship to anyone born in the country.
“We just can’t have people swimming across the river having children here,’’ he told Fox News.
The study from the Washington-based Pew center said 79 percent of the 5.1 million children under age 18 of illegal immigrants were born in the United States and therefore are citizens.
Because some of these children have one parent who is a legal resident, the Pew study does not bolster the argument to change the 14th Amendment, said the Immigration Policy Center, a Washington-based organization that opposes Graham’s initiative.
A June poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 56 percent of Americans oppose changing the 14th amendment and 41 percent want to change it.
Republicans have been pressuring President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress to strengthen border security and crack down on illegal immigration before passing a bill that would allow more foreign workers to enter the country on a temporary basis.
The Senate yesterday passed a $600 million measure to add Border Patrol agents and equipment at the US-Mexico border.