Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Life Issues > Children > There’s no such thing as an “anchor baby” among undocumented families who call U.S. home

There’s no such thing as an “anchor baby” among undocumented families who call U.S. home

LatinaLista — There are a lot of misperceptions about undocumented immigrants but there is one that is acutely grievous. It is the notion that pregnant immigrants make it a point to come to this country while they’re pregnant just to have their babies. Then they are said to use the baby as a bargaining chip to stay on this side of the border.


Among hardline conservatives, the popular term describing these children is “anchor baby.”

The majority of the stories I’ve ever heard of immigrant women who did make the trek over to the U.S. while in their ninth month didn’t do it for the sake of staying in the U.S.. Rather, they did it as a way to provide opportunities for their children down the road when it came to education. In fact, most of these women crossed the border legally.

In Mexico, where class still has a part in dictating who can and cannot go to school, the American educational system is an attractive carrot to entice people to do something they otherwise wouldn’t do.

However, it is true there are undocumented immigrant women who do give birth in the United States and stay — only because they had already been living in this country for quite a while, sometimes years before the baby is born, and had already chosen the U.S. as their new home to raise their family.

In these instances, where the women can actually establish residency and they and their families can prove they are a part of an organized community — church, community activities, organizations, etc. — the notion that these children are “anchor babies” is ludicrous. It also exposes this term for what it is — a descriptor meant to demean and leave the impression that these children are not worthy of anything from the U.S.

While I agree that women who just come to have their children on the U.S. side of the border, without having true residency, should not have their children be given U.S. citizenship if that is clearly their only intent, I don’t agree that citizenship should be deprived for the other children for whom the U.S. is home.

The ones who risk living their lives in this country every day as undocumented.

Because SB 1070 passed in Arizona, supporters now feel emboldened to extend their punitive reach in punishing undocumented immigrants further by proposing the end to birthright citizenship.

What this has to do with border security or taking jobs away from out-of-work Americans is anybody’s guess. Yet, what it clearly has to do with is as racist as it comes.

It’s no accident that in this country’s past the only other times that such a measure was considered and/or adopted was in 1857 when children of parents who were slaves of African descent were denied U.S. citizenship, otherwise known as the “Dred Scott” decision and in 1898:

…the Supreme Court rejected arguments that the son of a Chinese national – who was forbidden under the Chinese Exclusion Act from ever becoming U.S. citizens – should be deprived of citizenship because of his parents’ status. Subsequent decisions have upheld this standard.

To deny birthright citizenship to the children of immigrants, regardless of their status, who have proven that they want to live and stay in the United States would seem a much weaker argument than to bestow U.S. citizenship on the children of immigrant women who only want the status of U.S. citizenship.

When looked at it from this perspective, birthright citizenship to women who only come to give birth and return to their native countries would not only mean poor border women, but all those wealthy elitists and celebrities from countries all over the globe who jet in and pay exorbitant hospital fees for just wanting their children to have the status of U.S. citizenship.

Chances are these people do have residences in the United States, probably mansions, but if they can’t show they are integral members of their local communities and spend the majority of their time in this country — before even getting pregnant — then they too should be denied what everyone in this country now enjoys, regardless of economic status.

Would they be denied? Well, a few things are certain: money, fame and prestige speak volumes more than working-class, impoverished and unknown.

If there is one immigration battle that needs to be totally discarded, it’s denying birthright citizenship.

This is an argument that has the potential to resurrect the ugly past of this country and devalue the birthright of all who are proud to call themselves Americans.

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  • Karen
    June 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    That’s such a vile term, something I expect from trashy racists. These babies are Americans and that old, ugly, wrinkled bruja Jan Brewer cannot change it.

  • Chicano future tense
    June 15, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    “Anchor baby” is just another racist metaphor in a long list of historical bigotry.
    We have had “inferior stock” referring to dark skinned european immigrants of the early 20th century..
    black “welfare queens”..”welfare babies”..
    “socially irresponsible” single Latina moms whom social workers and judges think should be sterilized..
    the list goes on and on..
    Now we have the latest incarnation of that same racist position..
    “Anchor babies”..(code word for little brown Mexican babies)..
    for most white racist xenophobes in america their “final solution” would be “getting rid of all the Mexicans” …”sending them back to where they came from and those who remain here to shut-up!and obey your white superiors and thank your lucky stars we give you a job so you can eat,support your family and have a few things you’d never get down in Mexico”..
    ..such is the mindset of those who support outrageous laws such as SB1070 and now the proposed denial of birth certificates to Mexican babies..
    Divining the “intent” of Mexican expectant mothers can be a very risky proposition could and would be used to extreme advantage by “minutemen”types and other such racist organizations who hate brown people..of course they will always choose the “intent” that would politically best justify denial of birth certificates to Mexican babies..
    you can bet racists are experts at assigning “intent” to those they hate..
    Further,identifying the “intent” of Mexican women carrying a child is highly subjective and open to nefarious misinterpretation and manipulation..
    …I would be extremely careful not to go there..

  • Lexo
    June 16, 2010 at 2:45 am

    Arizona’s next target ‘Anchor babies’ what is next?
    share your opinion at

  • Texan123
    June 16, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Birthright citizenship is being abused. Not only by poor immigrants but by wealthy foreign tourists. Anyone capable of getting pregnant can come into this country and receive citizenship for the child. Citizenship comes with numerous benefits to which the foreign born parents should not have access to.
    What would happen if thousands of Chinese or Iranian women started coming to have children, claim citizenship, for the express purpose of taking over America? Would Latino’s support this?
    How exactly would you stop women from crossing the border to deliver babies?

  • Linda
    June 16, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Everyone who opposes is just racist. Blah,blah,blah…. This country pays way too many benefits to it’s citizens to be able to afford people coming here from other countries and having babies they cannot afford to support…PERIOD!! If you come here and you cannot afford to pay the hospital bill, yet alone a lifetime of feeding, clothing, educating, providing healthcare for a child you intend to have in this country, that’s a problem. It’s being done to death, and the communties that have to pay for it more than others simply have to take a stand against it. No other country in the world has the generous immigration policies that the U.S. has, but still we are taken advantage of. Stop the hatred towards Americans who are standing up for their country, Mexico would never allow what is happening here. Not other country in the world would allow what is happening here!

  • Lyndie
    June 17, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I’ve got to hand it to you, Ms. Treviño. You sure know how to put a spin on things in favor of your view. Nice try. Referring to your statement, “While I agree that women who just come to have their children on the U.S. side of the border, without having true residency, should not have their children be given U.S. citizenship if that is clearly their only intent, I don’t agree that citizenship should be deprived for the other children for whom the U.S. is home.”
    Just how do you propose to prove the true intentions of illegal immigrants, Mexican and otherwise, of having their babies here? You have no irrefutable way of knowing this either to prove your point or otherwise.
    It’s refreshing to see that you concede that many come here illegally because of the carrot dangled before them. Unfortunately, carrots are not free, it’s still against the law to steal them, and the United States does not have an inexhastible supply of them.

  • Karen
    June 17, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Re: “but still we are taken advantage of”
    Bull. American corporations under NAFTA are pushing Mexicans off of their land by polluting the soil and ground water. Google Smithfield Farms and fecal lagoons. Mexican farmers are being pushed off of their land too. They come here to survive.
    In agriculture alone, their labor contributes billions to the economy, money they never see.
    It’s corporations that are taking advantage of taxpayers, but it’s easier to scapegoat the people who are victims of corporations, especially when they are brown.
    Republicans such as Congressman Barton don’t even think BP should pay for the damage they’ve caused in the Gulf. How pathetic.
    The GOP has to direct people’s anger away from the source of the economic problems (corporations) so they’re scapegoating immigrants.

  • irma
    June 18, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Please write a column about the Eric Balderas. It is a sad story about the foolishness of a bright 19 year old Mexican boy. He boarded a plane without government issued ID. Now his full scholarship to Harvard is in jeopardy, he faces deportation and of course he has outed his family in San Antonio. The moral of this story is until we have immigration reform,
    people like Eric should never forget that they are undocumented. Personally, I would have stayed in
    Boston until graduation day.

  • Pete
    June 18, 2010 at 11:40 am

    It is not just Arizona. Check out HR 1868 pending in Congress to require one parent to be a US citizen at the time of birth to transfer citizenship. This is the proper interpretation of the 14th Amendment. Only Canada and US still allow this type of route to citizenship.
    There are an estimated 400,000 of these babies born every year. Followed by 18 years of welfare and legal fees paid for by US taxpayers.

  • irma
    June 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Linda, do you read newspapers?
    Healthcare is free in Europe . So yes, there are other countries where immigrants (documented and undocumented) get good health care. Its called Christian charity.

  • Evelyn
    June 19, 2010 at 12:43 am

    America was FOUNDED on illegal immigration. People have been coming here for centuries, fleeing poverty, famine, or genocide. You may be born here, but if you’re not a native American, you are a direct product of illegal immigration. You can try to shut out others by making laws that benefit you, but you will fail miserably.
    You can racially profile, and build a border fence. You can have all the redneck vigilantes in the world patrolling the border. Dig trenches. Lay mines. As long as you are unwilling to pay $30.00 for a burger, an illegal dude will wash the dishes. As long as you are unwilling to pay the landscaper $45.00 / hr, Manuel is your guy. Who’s gonna dig the hole for your pool? The paisa’s at home depot. You want your kids raised while you and your wife both have a career, Esmeralda will do it for you.
    It used to be slave labor, and now American businesses’ bottom line depends on cheap labor, THEY- WILL-COME. As did your ancestors.
    Deal with it, and learn some Spanish.

    July 13, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    I agree with the fact that wealthy foreigner should not be allowed to fly in and have their “anchor babies,” but I also believe that just because your child is born over here, we should not have to foot the bill for their livelihood.
    As for your statement: “I don’t agree that citizenship should be deprived for the other children for whom the U.S. is home.
    The ones who risk living their lives in this country every day as undocumented.
    If they are risking their lives living here, then shouldn’t they go back home where it is safer then, or is it not a risk of life, just of deportation?
    Comments appreciated.

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