(IANS) One of about every 12 babies born in the United States in 2008 was the offspring of illegal immigrants, says a new study sharpening a debate over a law that automatically makes them US citizens.
An estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the US in 2008 had parents who were in the country without legal documentation, a Pew Hispanic Centre study released on Wednesday concluded.
The study did not give a country-wise break up, but according to official figures there are some 200,000 Indians among over 11 million illegal foreign residents in the US, making them the sixth largest source for unauthorised immigrants with Mexico with 6.7 million (62 per cent) at the top.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution provides for citizenship by birth but some members of Congress are pushing to change that provision. That effort-rooted in the debate over illegal immigration, particularly of people from Mexico-has created some controversy.
"This has got a lot of attention in the past weeks," said Jeffrey S. Passel, the study's author. "The idea was just to put a number on it."
According to the study, 79 percent of the 5.1 million children of unauthorised immigrants in the United States were born in this country, making them US citizens.
Nearly one of four children born in the United States in 2008 had parents who were immigrants, the Pew study found. Of those, 16 percent of the parents were legal immigrants and 8 per cent were in the United States without proper documentation.
More than three-fourths of all unauthorised immigrants in the United States in March 2009 were Latinos, the researcher said. And nearly one of every four children under age 18 in the nation was a Hispanic. That trend is likely to continue, the study concludes.
"Overall, Hispanics who live in the US have higher rates of fertility than do whites, blacks or Asians," the report states. "And among Hispanics, the foreign born have higher rates of fertility than the native born."
Meanwhile, a new poll suggested Americans are split right down the middle when it comes to the question of changing the Constitution to prevent children of immigrants from automatically becoming US citizens.
According to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll out Wednesday, 49 per cent of Americans are in favour of changing that portion of 14th Amendment while 51 per cent oppose doing so.
The poll also shows a clear partisan divide on the issue, with 58 per cent of Republicans supporting a change while only 39 per cent of Democrats do so. Independents are split exactly 50-50.
Several leading Republican senators, including Minority Leader, Mr Mitch McConnell, and 2008 presidential nominee, Mr John McCain, have said they would support holding hearings into the matter as part of the heated debate over immigration.