FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2010, OR THEREAFTER
BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
“'ANCHOR BABIES' REVILED FOR LITTLE REASON”
No group is so hated by the many Americans who resent illegal immigration as so-called “anchor babies” born in the United States to illegal immigrant women.
They’re not reviled for anything they’ve done, but because of their parents’ actions and the services they might eventually get. And because once they’re born, it can be more difficult to deport their parents.
“There is an orchestrated effort by (the parents) to come here and have children to gain access to the great welfare state we’ve created,” maintains Arizona Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce, author of his state’s landmark SB 1070, the law that seeks to compel that police demand documents of anyone they deal with who might possibly be in America illegally.
Added Frosty Wooldridge, writing on the Web site of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, “Maternity tourism is just the beginning of the silliness of birthright citizenship that goes to the babies of foreign students…and the millions who break the law to criminally enter this country.”
But any state bill denying birthright citizenship to anyone born in this country will most likely end up on the legal scrapheap because the idea flies in the face of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which since 1868 has conferred citizenship on birth to anyone born here.
This has led major Republican politicians like South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham and House Minority Leader John Boehner to call for hearings on changing the 14th Amendment.
Anti-birthright advocates contend accurately the amendment was designed to assure citizenship and equal rights to former slaves. But its language is not so limited.
The anti-birthright forces also say “anchor babies” contribute little and cost a lot, from hospital expenses at the start through public schooling and much more. They’ve claimed the 14th amendment invites both “maternity tourism” and the creation of “terror babies,” children allegedly bred to commit acts of terror on this country, their future access guaranteed by their status as citizens.
The problem with all these claims is that they run counter to most known facts about “anchor babies.” Infants born to undocumented mothers account for about 8 percent of all U.S. births, but no one knows how many of their fathers might have legal status, according to a new study from the Pew Hispanic Center. More than 80 percent of those new mothers had been in this country at least one year, with more than half here at least three years and a large but unspecified percentage here 10 years or more. Not exactly tourists, so if there is maternity tourism, it can’t be widespread.
What’s more, immigrant advocates say, plenty of so-called anchor babies grow up to be major contributors to American life. “Many children born here of persons who are not legal residents become leading citizens when they grow up,” said Margaret Stock, a West Point professor, lawyer and retired military police colonel, also a frequent expert witness in immigration cases. As a classic example, she cites Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, sometimes touted as a possible Republican presidential candidate. “Gov. Jindal’s mother was here on a student visa when he was born.”
Anyone born in that circumstance would be denied citizenship under a proposed federal Birthright Citizenship Act, first introduced in Congress last year by the recently-resigned Republican Rep. Nathan Deal, now running for governor of Georgia. It would limit automatic citizenship to babies with at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, a legal permanent resident (green card holder) or a foreign citizen on active military duty in the U.S. armed forces.
That could cause myriad problems, say immigrant advocates. For one thing, it would mean that every new parent would have to produce a birth certificate of his or her own to get citizenship for a newborn. If none could be found, the infant would have to apply for what is called “derivative citizenship.”
“That process is very complex and fraught with error and passing a law like this would necessitate setting up a new bureaucracy at great expense,” Bill Ong Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, told a press conference the other day. “More important, though, is that these kids are to a large extent our future.”
His implied question: Do we really want to make these people hate America from the very beginning of their lives?
Then there’s the fact that no one has proven “maternity tourism” or having “anchor babies” is a main cause of illegal immigration. “The anti-illegal immigration people are using this right now to keep people riled up even as actual border crossings are at their lowest point in decades and steadily dropping,” said Stock.
It’s true: the southern border has become less permeable under President Obama than under any other recent president.
All of which makes talk of “anchor babies” little more than pure political claptrap, designed to swing votes rightward in this midterm election year.
Email Thomas Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net