As many as 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the U.S. 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 U.S. Constitution, which guarantees U.S. 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 U.S. and therefore are citizens.
Because some of these children have one parent who is a legal resident, the Pew study doesn’t 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 Barack Obama and the Democratic-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 today planned to pass a $600 million measure to add Border Patrol agents and equipment to strengthen protection of the U.S.-Mexico border. The House passed the measure by voice vote on Aug. 10. Obama in May announced plans to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the border.
Last month, the administration won the first round in a legal battle with Arizona when a federal judge blocked a state law aimed at thwarting illegal immigration. The U.S. Justice Department argues that the Arizona measure intrudes into the traditionally federal sphere of immigration policy.