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“Anchor Baby” Discussion is a Distraction

5764422581_ff75c7a399_oThe term “anchor baby” has been in the news a lot recently. A lot of people are unfamiliar with the term and the fact that it is generally considered a derogatory word. Unfortunately, one again, there is a lot of misinformation being thrown around about the term. Hopefully this blog clears some of that up.

What does it mean?

The term anchor baby has been around for years. In fact, one of my first blogs was about this very subject. Anchor babies, as defined by the American Heritage dictionary, is an offensive term used despairingly to describe “a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child’s birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother’s or other relatives’ chances of securing eventual citizenship.” The idea behind the term is that mothers cross into the United States to give birth to their child, granting the child automatic U.S. citizenship, and thus the child can then apply for its parents and other relatives to come to the United States.

How do things actually work?

Of course, in reality, things just do not work out that way. Under current U.S. law, a U.S. citizen child of an undocumented immigrant living in the United States cannot apply for any relatives, including their parents, until they are 21 years old. Additionally, the Washington Post goes on to explain that even after waiting 21 years for the child to reach the age to petition for their parent’s green card, a parent would still have to:

  1. leave the United States;
  2. have the child begin the lengthy immigration process;
  3. wait the three or ten year ban for being in the U.S. illegally, and;
  4. pass all the interviews and background checks that go along with the immigration process.

So, taking the hypothetical that a woman comes to the United States, gives birth to a child that is automatically a U.S. citizen, the mother, father, or any relative for that matter could not possible receive any immigration benefit until, at the earliest, 24 years after the child was born but probably closer to 30 years once you account for how long the immigration process actually takes in the United States. Talk about a long-term plan. Of course, in the mean time, that parent could face deportation each and every day they lived in the U.S. without status. Opponents argue that having a U.S. citizen child will make the undocumented parent less likely to be deported. That’s simply not true. In fact, the Huffington Post reported that in 2013, the United States deported more than 72,000 undocumented immigrants that claimed to have U.S. citizen children.

Once again, another “scary” aspect of immigration turns out not to be so scary after all. If you want more information about the “anchor babies,” Vox has an interesting article on the subject.