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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: GOP alienates minority voters by targeting “anchor babies”

GOP candidates Jeb Bush and—surprise, surprise—Donald Trump have recently come under fire for their usage of the term “anchor babies” as a staple for their anti-immigration rhetoric.  

Anchor babies, according to the conservative candidates, are children born of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who apparently serve as tools for their parents to deter deportation and secure easier access to citizenship themselves. 

The term is dehumanizing. It suggests that immigrants only have babies on U.S. soil to serve as instruments to ease parents through citizenship proceedings, because immigrants obviously can’t have children for all the normal reasons—you know, to build a family and all that. 

Not only is the concept derogatory, but it’s also completely unjustified. First, birthright citizenship for children born in the U.S. should not be a question. It is a fundamental right secured by the 14th Amendment, which states, “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.”

Conservatives in border states have challenged this right by attempting to make birthright citizenship harder to attain. Trump has even suggested his intent to bypass constitutional framework and outlaw birthright citizenship altogether, stating during CNN’s GOP debate that to change the 14th Amendment “probably doesn’t even need” congressional approval. 

Trump and others on the far right are trying to fear-monger voters into believing that children of the undocumented are somehow a major threat to the U.S., that their very existence is some kind of tactic to manipulate the existing, absolutely effective immigration policy and allow more immigrants to attain citizenship. 

Here’s where the xenophobic tactic falls short: the U.S. already takes virtually no consideration of family ties into account when deporting undocumented persons. 

“U.S. immigration agents detained and summarily deported more than 100,000 parents of more than 200,000 U.S. citizen children [from 2011 to 2012] alone,” according to a Human Rights Watch analysis. Further, “Fewer than 10 percent of the parents of U.S. citizen children apprehended by border agents were allowed a hearing before an immigration judge at which they could potentially make claims about their family ties.” 

See? Granting citizenship to babies has no effect on whether their parents can ever become U.S. citizens. Bush and Trump should be able to take a sigh of relief; at least that bothersome 14th Amendment doesn’t get in the way of tearing families apart. 

The anchor babies debacle has caused Bush to alienate minority voters, particularly within the Hispanic community. In a blundering attempt to win back Hispanic voters, Bush attempted to clarify his offensive comments, telling CNN cameras that “anchor babies” were “frankly more related to Asian people.” 

What better way is there to appease one minority than to attack another?

Actually, the “birth tourism” trend that’s scaring conservatives, in which an expectant mother will come to the U.S. to ensure citizenship for her child without the intention of becoming a permanent resident herself, is a bit more prevalent among Asian immigrants. 

Gary Chodorow, an immigration lawyer based in China, said in an interview with CNN Politics that he has seen a “very obvious” boom in recent years of Chinese parents seeking to give birth in the U.S. He also said that many of his clients look for his guidance on navigating U.S. immigration laws. 

An increasing amount of Chinese agencies collaborate with “birth houses” in cities like Los Angeles. Expectant Chinese mothers can go to these places for support as they plan out the births of their children, who will attain U.S. citizenship. 

While the birth tourism industry is growing, it doesn’t represent a significant social problem. While news agencies attempt to put the phenomena on blast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded only 9,075 births in the U.S. in 2013 from non-citizens.

Further, birth tourists, by definition, return to their home countries after delivering, taking their newborn American citizen children with them. Often, expectant parents from China do so in order to evade China’s one-child policy, which can’t be applied to U.S. citizens. 

Other parents come from Asia to ensure their U.S. citizen children will eventually have a better chance at returning to attend an American university. Either way, they do not stay in the U.S. or impose any continuing burden on public services.

The disproportionate attention Bush and others have devoted to this racist “anchor baby” non-issue has been a huge turn-off to all minority voters. 

“There seems to be very little effort to mobilize the Asian-American vote,” said Erika Lee, the director of the Immigration History Research Center for the University of Minnesota, in an interview with CNN Politics. “So to have Asian-Americans enter into this debate as potential ‘anchor babies’ is—people feel like it represents the disregard that politicians have for Asian-Americans.”

It’s ironic that the most vocal opponents of anchor babies are conservatives who consistently taut their devotion to “family values.” Next time they attack the parents of anchor babies and call for their deportation, they should remember that family unity is a fundamental human right incorporated in both domestic law and international human rights treaties. 

Hillary Clinton took to Twitter with the truth we should all accept about “anchor babies:” “They’re called babies.”

Follow Hailey Dickson on Twitter.

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