Citizenship Through Birth: Anchor Babies 14th Amendment Attack

The Anchor Baby argument rests on one central issue. Are the children of immigrants, born in the United States, entitled to U.S. citizenship? For nearly 150 years, the matter was deemed settled. The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, had resolved the debate. “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.” This is known as Birthright Citizenship. If you are born in the United States, you are a U.S. citizen. Pretty straight forward. Alas, nothing is sacred in the world of politics. Anchor Babies is NOT a legal term. It is politically-charged verbiage to oppose immigration reform. Despite the long-standing body of law supporting birthright citizenship, the anchor baby rhetoric is used to distort public thinking about immigrant-friendly legislative changes. Utilizing imagery of illegal immigrants capsizing the American ship, restrictionists seek to subtly impose their anti-immigrant agenda on unsuspecting voters. They argue countless immigrant women come to United States illegally to give birth to their children on U.S. soil, as a means to manipulate the immigration system. They add that immigrants steal financial benefits they are not entitled to. “A parent from a poor country,” opponents assert, “can hardly do more for a child then make him or her an American citizen, entitled to all the advantages of the American welfare state.” They add illegal immigrant parents have grander plans than just U.S. citizenship for their unborn children. Because the children will be born as U.S. citizens, the children can turn around and immigrate their parents transforming the illegal immigrant parents into lawful residents. This view, however, does not reflect reality. Two points illustrate how the anchor babies argument is based on fantasy. First, not every child of an immigrant born in the U.S. is born to an immigrant who entered without permission, solely to give birth to an unborn child. Childbirth across cultural lines, like all childbirth, is often unplanned. Take Mike and Jane. Mike, a Japanese citizen, arrived in the U.S. on a tourist visa. One day, while visiting a friend’s house, he met Jane. Jane was born and raised in Guatemala. She entered the country as a young child without legal documents. Over the next few months, Mike and Jane became close friends and started dating. Soon they fell in love. Just before Mike’s visa expired, Jane became pregnant. Mike returned to his country, Jane remained in the U.S. Shortly afterwards, she learned about her pregnancy. 8 ½ months after Mike’s departure, she gave birth to a son in Riverside, California. Anchor baby critics assert that children like Jane’s son should not be granted U.S. citizenship. Second, the permanent resident process for undocumented immigrant parents is not simple. A wait of 21 plus years is necessary before an unborn child is old enough to be eligible to petition his parent for lawful status. That is only the initial step. From the time the child’s petition is filed, to the parent’s interview, the process takes several more years to complete. The parent has to leave the United States and return to her home country for the green card interview at a consulate office abroad. If the parent lived in the United States for more than one year, there is a ban of at least 10 years before legal re-entry to the United States is allowed. This means the parent of an anchor baby faces a wait of 33 plus years continues after the birth of her child, before she is granted permanent resident status. In other words, the real world undermines anchor baby rhetoric. For many immigrant opponents, sadly, truth is not a virtue. Thus, the battle over birthright citizenship continues. 150 years after the Fourteenth Amendment became law.

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