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Debunking the ‘anchor baby’ argument

Commentary: Politically Aware


I have conservative friends with whom I enjoy discussing policy issues. Sometimes I educate. Sometimes I learn. Sometimes we find common ground.

Occasionally they say something that lets me know I should give up on a conversation that is going nowhere. Like when they say “anchor baby.”

Let’s unpack this, because that phrase is so wrong that it shouldn’t be uttered. When it is, the speaker might be taken seriously as a threat, but not as an intellectual.

The first problem is that “anchor baby” makes no linguistic sense. Merriam Webster defines “anchor” as: a heavy device that is attached to a boat or ship by a rope or chain and that is thrown into the water to hold the boat or ship in place. Does that sound like something a baby can do?

An alternate definition is: a person or thing that provides strength and support. Again, can a baby do that? If there is something that anchors an immigrant family to the United States, it is the adult’s hard work to find a job and make a living here, not whether they have a child who is a citizen.

Which brings us to issue number two: a child who is a citizen doesn’t really help the parents. They don’t get automatic legal status because their offspring is a citizen. According to immigration law, the best the parents get is the advantage of having a sponsor – when their child is 21. They would still have to leave for years before they could be considered for a green card.

Any consideration given to the parents of native born American citizens is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, the same process President Obama has invoked (and conservatives have attacked) in allowing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). I’m happy to debate those rules with conservatives as part of immigration policy.

But not birth right citizenship, because it isn’t an immigration policy. It’s an anti-slavery policy. I know this, because it is in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, passed after the Civil War. Four score and seven years belated, America made it clear that former slaves and their children were full five fifths American citizens. Over the significant hurdles to amending the Constitution, they said “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

I don’t believe it was a mistake, or that those building fathers took it lightly. I think they anticipated what we see now, and have seen with every wave of immigration. Americans look at new people as “other.” If they are “other” for generations on end, they could become second class citizens akin to slavery. Making native born children American citizens is a barrier to perpetual discrimination. Birth right citizenship hasn’t ended racial and ethnic bias, but it is the best check we have on our most regrettable history. The next time someone rails against “anchor babies”, don’t engage them on open borders. Ask them why they would perpetuate a second class of Americans.

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Posted by on Sep 17, 2015. Filed under Politically Aware. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Debunking the ‘anchor baby’ argument”

  1. The term Anchor Baby is a legal term, and has a definition that is well understood. I find it rather interesting that the United States is the only first world country on this planet that will grant citizenship to a child that is born on its soil, with no other conditions, I as a female cannot go to Canada and have my baby there and he or she end up being a Canadian citizen, same with Mexico or the UK for that matter.

    I would suggest you take look at the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the United States Constitution in the context they were brought into being under.
    Those three amendments to the United States Constitution are in reference to repatriation of former slaves, granting them citizenship and voting rights.

    The beauty of the United States Constitution is it is written in plain English and we have all the Cliff Notes provided by its framers and their supporters and detractors. We know what they were talking about, and those amendments have been misused / perverted by people and groups that would have the US tax payers foot the bill for the upkeep of people who would support their agenda.


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