Let me begin by saying I am offended by the very term “anchor baby”. It implies that immigrants come to the United States to have babies so they can remain in the country legally, eventually obtaining citizenship. This is a lot more ridiculous than the average American may realize. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted on July 9th, 1868. It is one of the Reconstruction Amendments that came out of the Civil War. This controversial amendment has been utilized in many ways since its ratification. One of its early uses was to grant citizenship to the descendants of African slaves. Let’s think about that for a moment.
Slave traders brought Africans to America to be slaves and work as property. Many of these slaves were intentionally “bred” to increase the number of slaves owned by slave masters. So what we seem to have are former slaves using their babies as, wait for it, “anchor babies”. Certainly slaves may not have come here legally. They did not come willingly, that’s for sure. However, after being forced to work here, live here, and have families here, there were states that wanted to deny them and their descendants’ legal status.
Yes, this is not exactly what presidential candidates like Trump are talking about. No one is forcing illegal aliens to come here and have babies. After all, slavery is no longer legal. So why do they come and can having a baby here give them the right to remain?
It seems that many of the illegal immigrants who come to the US to have babies are seeking better health care and education opportunities for their children. Many have the illusion these services are more readily accessible here and are either free or cost very little. As the mother of four adult children and five grandchildren I can say that is far from true. I live in a state where parents have to pay school fees and book fees. There is always a co-pay for health care. I don’t know anyone who gets these things free of charge.
So the argument is that these parents feel they can stay in the US and become citizens simply because their babies are born here. Here’s how it works. Citizen children CANNOT sponsor their parents into the US until they are twenty-one years of age. That’s a long time to wait. To complicate things even further if the parent had been in the US illegally, she would have to show she had left and not returned for AT LEAST ten years! Granted however, pregnant and nursing mothers could receive free food vouchers through the federal WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program and enroll the children in Medicaid.
A parent of a child who has become a citizen by birth in the US and has been here for at least ten years can apply for relief from deportation. This may sound like a good deal. Only four thousand people a year can be granted that relief. Since about eighty-eight thousand legal residents who are parents of US citizen children have been deported since the year 2000 that doesn’t make the odds very good for staying in the US. Most of those deportations were the result of minor criminal convictions.
More concerning may be the birth tourists. Technically when entering the US you are not supposed to lie about why you want a visa. Obviously someone could easily lie. It’s not illegal for a tourist to have a baby in the US. Recently this has been something women from China are doing since China has restrictions on how many children a woman can bear. There are even “maternity hotels” where these women can go to have their babies. Obviously we are not talking about poor women from disadvantaged countries. The estimates on the number of tourist births yearly are fairly low, about thirty six thousand.
The illegal immigrants we may be concerned with are not just those that cross the border illegally. There are women who simply overstay their visas. They may not even come to the US with the intention of having a baby.
A 2012 report by the Pew Research Center found that around 5.5 percent of all K-12 students born in the US had at least one parent who was not legally in the U.S. It seems that many of these children did have one parent here legally. It was also estimated that a little less than eight percent of the 4.3 million babies born in the US in 2008 were born to illegal immigrants. That amounts to about 340,000 babies.
So what is the answer? Do we want to deny citizenship to babies born in the US when the parents have entered or remained in our country illegally? Should there be a process by which the parents can gain citizenship? What would those requirements be? Obviously it would be necessary to require they be employed and self sufficient, have no criminal history, and are able and willing to pay taxes. Adding families that rely on government assistance to an already burdened system would be madness. If the parents meet the above criteria set a time limit on how long they can remain in the states before acquiring citizenship just as any other immigrant does.
It’s a slippery slope. No country wants to be known as the one that turns away innocent babies. Should the babies be considered US citizens? Certainly, if at least one parent is a citizen, that is not unreasonable.
Do we want to build a wall to prevent illegal immigrants from coming into our country? The question is, will it really work? It seems to me many of these illegals are more than a little resourceful. I think they will find another way. Can we put a stop to the maternity hotels? That might be a lot easier.
In the end, I think this is a problem that is not going away anytime soon. The best solution seems to be to integrate these illegal immigrants into our country as tax-paying citizens. It would give us income instead of costing us more to build walls and police them effectively.