And Daniel Griswold of the libertarian Cato Institute writes in a 2007 report, "The Fiscal Impact of Immigration Reform: The Real Story," that it would be misleading to "count the costs of educating the children of an immigrant without considering the future taxes paid by the educated children once they have grown and entered the workforce."

Educated voices of reason are drowned out by FAIR's populist appeal. If you want to measure the group's effectiveness at convincing Americans that illegal immigrants are an undue burden on taxpayers, consider this: U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a staunch supporter a few months ago of legalizing the undocumented already in the United States, now seeks hearings on whether their kids should be citizens.


Editor’s note: Former New Times staff writer Terry Greene Sterling is the author of the new book Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone and is writer-in-residence at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Jennifer Gaie Hellum assisted with research on white-nationalist groups. Sterling's personal Web site is

"People come here to have babies," he told Fox News in July. "They come here to drop a child."

His assertion that parents illegally enter the United States just to pop out "anchor babies" to obtain parental green cards makes no sense.

First, under current immigration law, undocumented parents would have to wait for their "anchor babies" to reach adulthood before they could legally apply for parental green cards.

Second, if the parents live illegally in the United States, immigration authorities generally require that they return to Mexico and stay there for 10 years before the U.S. government will consider giving them green cards.

But this doesn't stop Graham's bluster. He's even hinted that he might introduce legislation to change the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which grants citizenship to most children born on American soil, regardless of whether their parents have papers. Graham was probably grandstanding; such an amendment requires a two-thirds majority in both the U.S. House and Senate and would have to be ratified by 75 percent of the states. (Alternately, two-thirds of the states could call a constitutional convention, but so far, this has never happened.)

The more practical path would be for Arizona to pass a birthright-citizenship law and then test it all the way to the Supreme Court at taxpayer expense. (Just like all the other Arizona immigration laws that FAIR has heartily supported.) And sure enough, fresh off his SB 1070 victory, Russell Pearce vowed he'd ramp up his efforts (a longtime FAIR fan, he's pitched "anchor baby" laws) to get a birthright-citizenship law passed in Arizona.

Pearce didn't return phone calls and an e-mail seeking comment for this story, but now that he's president of the Arizona Senate, he has publicly stated he will back off sponsoring the birthright-citizenship law himself and turn over the issue to his compadre in the state House, Representative John Kavanagh. It is unknown whether Kavanagh will introduce another of Pearce's favorite measures — a law that would require parents of kids with no papers to pay tuition to attend public school.

Such a law would work in tandem with a birthright-citizenship measure. Arizona would deny birth certificates to kids born to undocumented parents, and then the state would charge tuition because the children would not have birth certificates.

If a birthright-citizenship law were passed, it would create a burgeoning, illegal, illiterate, expensive underclass.

What's more, if children of the undocumented were deprived of schooling, government revenues would plummet.

That's because cost benefits of a public high school education are significant, according to a 2007 Columbia University study, "The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education for America's Children." The study found that even kids who needed expensive interventions (such as English classes) to get their high school diplomas netted the public purse an average of $127,000 per student over a lifetime.

On the other hand, high school dropouts tend to commit more crimes, be less healthy, rely more on public benefits, and pay fewer taxes, the same study reports.

The Center for Immigration Studies, FAIR's sister organization, has long pointed to a 30-plus percent dropout rate among Latino immigrants. The implication is that Mexicans drain the economy with social costs, and if they don't leave, it will only get worse. As if to underscore the Mexican menace, the CIS Web site displays hidden-camera-on-the-border videos of brown people purportedly sneaking into the country.

Scaremongering about Latino dropout rates is based on National Center for Education Statistics data on the "16- to 24-year-old status dropout rate."

Richard Fry, of the Pew Hispanic Center, determined that 38 percent of Hispanic immigrants, ages 16 to 24, were high school dropouts.

But here's the catch, according to Fry: The 38 percent dropout rate includes thousands of young immigrant laborers with minimal educations who never attended American schools.

They're still counted by the National Center for Education Statistics as high school dropouts because they haven't finished 12 years of school.

The sadder part of this story is that U.S.-born Hispanics actually do have a relatively high dropout rate — 11 percent. That's not a good statistic, and it does have social costs.

But it's impossible to tie this dropout rate to illegal immigration. Fry says there's no way to determine how many of these U.S.-born dropouts are children of the undocumented.

Seeing their peers waste educational opportunities mightily frustrates many of about 825,000 illegal immigrant children known as "DREAMers."

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