This controversial term has become an election talking point. So let's see what “anchor babies” means and what the problem is.
The phrase has been used by Donald Trump and Jeb Bush while discussing immigration policy on the campaign trail.
Trump used the term while discussing whether an amendment to the constitution would help deal with immigration reform. “It’s a long process, and I think it would take too long. I’d much rather find out whether or not anchor babies are citizens because a lot of people don’t think they are,” he said.
Then Bush used the term while talking about the need for greater enforcement applied with regard to people entering the country. “If there’s abuse, if people are bringing – pregnant women are coming in to have babies simply because they can do it, then there ought to be greater enforcement,” he said. "Better enforcement so that you don’t have these, you know, ‘anchor babies’, as they’re described, coming into the country.”
Bush later said he did not regret using the term and blamed Democrats for the negative stigma surrounding the words. “You give me a better term and I’ll use it,” he said. Hillary Clinton tweeted a suggestion: “How about ‘babies,’ ‘children,’ or ‘American citizens’.” The alternative language of “American-born child of undocumented immigrants” was suggested to Trump, he declined to use it.
Birthright citizenship was common law in America upon its founding but in 1857 that right was revoked for people of African ancestry, following the Dred Scott ruling. In 1868, the US ratified the 14th amendment, which grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States”. Trump, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker are all in favor of ending birthright citizenship. Chris Christie has said it needs to be re-examined and despite Bush’s comments, he has said he does not want to end birthright citizenship.
In any case, the term ‘anchor babies’ is dehumanizing and inaccurate. It differentiates children of undocumented immigrants from children of US citizens despite both being legal citizens of America. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term as “offensive”.
The idea of automatic citizenship was once fairly uncontroversial. The matter was unequivocally settled for a century or so, until 1991 when Republicans in Congress introduced a bill declaring that only children born in the US to mothers who are legal residents shall be given citizenship. The measure died in committee, but not before gaining 19 co-sponsors and a significant following in the anti-immigration community. Now, Republicans in every single Congress since 1991 have introduced legislation to undo birthright citizenship.
The use of the term "anchor baby" shows that Donald Trump has a serious impact on his party and other candidates. His comments on immigrants have driven his rivals into such a hard-line stance over immigration that any talk of immigration reform has been ditched and the focus moved to enforcing tough security measures along the Mexican border and as of now on "anchor baby's" as well.
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