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Illegal immigrants constitute just over 4 percent of the nation's adult population but are producing 8 percent of the nation's babies, a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center has revealed.

Why? Immigrants, the study report says, are younger than the population as a whole and have relatively high birthrates.

The study, based on both Census Bureau data and the Pew center's own research, was released as the "anchor baby" controversy heats up in national politics. Some Republicans have called for changing the U.S. Constitution's provision that grants citizenship to babies born in the country regardless of their parents' immigration status. The 14th Amendment was enacted in 1868 to legalize children of former slaves.

While the Pew study was national in scope, its proportions would be higher in states with high levels of illegal immigration, particularly California. There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, about a quarter of whom are in California, past studies have indicated. That's roughly 8 percent of the state's population, twice the national proportion.

The Pew study would imply, therefore, that perhaps 16 percent of the 500,000-plus babies born each year in California have illegal immigrant parents. That's roughly in line with other calculations.

State Department of Health Services birth statistics don't delve into the legal status of parents, but they do reveal that nearly half of the state's babies are born to immigrant mothers. Overall, the foreign-born population of California is estimated at some 13 million, or more than a third of the state's population. Legal immigrants outnumber illegal immigrants in the state by 3 to 1.

The full Pew report is available here.


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