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The Untruth About Anchor Babies

The year 2011 ended with controversy about the inclusion of the term “anchor baby” in the new edition of the American Heritage Dictionary. Anchor baby, it said, is “a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family.” A protest ensured from the American Immigration Counsel (AIC), resulting in an immediate and dramatic reversal in the definition. The term “anchor baby,” according to the AIC, is derogatory and offensive and should be labeled as such. With a few days, the folks at American Heritage Dictionary redefined the term:

Anchor baby n. Offensive. Used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grant 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.”

But here is the truth about anchor babies. The idea that people (the general perception is Mexican people) actually plan to gain a path to citizenship by coming to the United States to have a baby is very much a fiction. The immigration haters out there claim that anchor babies lead to “chain immigration” in which the baby petitions for the parents and for his/her brothers and sisters, and the parents and siblings then petition in more relatives, and so on and so on. The truth is that the United States Citizen baby cannot petition for his/her parents, or anyone for that matter until he/she is 21 years old. Then, after waiting 21 years for the “anchor baby” to come of age the parents who originally came to the United States undocumented have to return to their country to process their immigrant visa. Upon leaving the United States, the parents will immediately be subject to the 10-year bar prohibiting their re-entry into the United States due to their time of unlawful presence here. Moreover, pursuant to the latest Visa Bulletin from the Department of State, it takes 16 years before an immigrant visa application becomes current if the “anchor baby,” who is now an adult U.S. citizen, files for a brother or sister in Mexico, and the beneficiary must wait out that time in Mexico. Do the math and we are looking at 35 to 40 years for the “anchor baby” to successfully petition a relative into the United States.

In spite of the illogical thinking that anchor babies lead to chain immigration, some in the Senate have proposed to amend the Constitution so that children born in the United States are only considered automatic citizens if one parent is a U.S. citizen, one parent is a legal immigrant, or one parent is an active member of the Armed Forces.” The Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land and Citizenship by birth on U.S. soil is a fundamental right, as it is in most countries. To suggest an amendment to our rights of citizenship over resentment of an imagined benefit for foreigners is extreme. Talk about a solution in search of a problem!

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