Blowing Up the “Anchor Baby” Lie

anchorbabiesSo when it comes to immigration reform everyone has an opinion. Sadly, some of those opinions are based on erroneous implications, allusions to falsehoods and outright lies. These are told and retold by mostly unknowing talking-heads. One of those falsehoods is the “anchor baby” meme.

Here’s how it goes: a pregnant women seeks to come into the U.S. and have her baby here. Once born here, the child is a citizen. The implication is that once the mother has a citizen baby here, they have an “anchor” by means of which they can stay here in the country legally. This implied benefit to having an “anchor baby”  is a farce.

Let’s say that a woman comes in the country pregnant and has her baby here, and the baby is then a citizen. What happens? Does that baby get to petition for his/her parent’s green card? No. In fact, that baby cannot do anything to regularize the status of the parents until the baby is 21 years old. Once that child is 21, he/she must submit an application for an IR5 Visa. That can take up to a year or several more depending on where the parents are from. And that’s for a parent who lives in a foreign country. So they have to provide evidence of their foreign residence, foreign background check, and submit to the U.S. embassy rules in that foreign country. So best case scenario, 22 years after the baby is born, the “anchor baby” might pay off.

The notion, then, that there is any kind of real benefit to the “anchor baby” is a lie. I say “real benefit” because, having a child who is a citizen, the mother could be eligible for WIC and the baby – not the mom – would be eligible for Medicaid. And it’s possible that if the mother is caught, she might not be deported because of the baby. Exemptions are made in those cases, but there is a cap on those exceptions every year, and the cap is low.

baby-and-flag-1a_45121253But what do I hear about all these birthing hotels? Here’s where I admit that women still do come to the U.S. to have their babies in order to attain citizenship for their child. National Public Radio reported on a “birthing hotel” in Los Angeles. The women come here legally on a tourist visa. They give birth to the child. They leave with a U.S. passport for their child. Pretty sinister no?

Except that these are not Latino women. NPR reported that it is Chinese women who come here and they are not in search of some means of legal immigration. These are phenomenally wealthy Chinese who want that extra edge in placing their child at an American boarding school. It helps, after all, if the kid is a citizen.

There may be legitimate arguments against birthright citizenship, arguments which Constitutional scholars have more business discussing than me. The U.S. Bishops have a position on that too if you’re interested in finding out about it. But that’s not the issue.

The issue is that a lie is told over and over again in order to demonize immigrants. They’re “playing the system” I’ve been told by some.  Look, Latinos aren’t stupid. If it doesn’t work, they’re not going to try it. There is no game.

Everyone has an opinion about immigration reform, and many are not afraid to share it, particularly in the anonymity of the internet. But opinions should be based on facts, not the scare tactics of pundits.

Omar Gutierrez writes from Omaha, NE. His book, The Urging of Christ’s Love:The Saints and the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church can be purchased online and at Catholic booksellers.

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