The Attack On The 14th Amendment And The Myth Of Anchor Babies
At a recent green card interview, the immigration officer asked my client, “Why did you return home in 1985 and 1988?”
“To give birth to my two children,” she responded.
“I couldn’t afford the health care here.”
The officer gave me a confused, dazed look.
I couldn’t bite my lip.
“Sort of kills the anchor baby rhetorical nonsense, doesn’t it?”
Political Hijacking The Constitution
The issue properly formulated is not about anchor babies, a mean-spririted term used by immigration opponents.
Rather, the issue is birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment.
As noted in The Anchor Baby Debate: U.S. Citizenship For Immigrant Children, the matter was deemed settled for nearly 150 years.
Ratified in 1868, the 14th Amendment 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.”
Unfortunately, in politics, nothing is sacred. Especially when it comes to immigration politics.
Now, a short-sighted effort to revise American history is underway.
Anti-immigration zealots, sensing an opportunity to win votes based on fear-mongering, have seized upon the issue. Over and over again, they present images of immigrants crossing the border in waves, sucking up our resources until there is nothing left for citizens born here.
To an extent, the false imagery is working.
Because much of the public does not understand the immense legal difficulties or far-reaching social consequences of eradicating the 14th amendment, opponents have been able to disguise the attack as a mere immigration policy item.
It’s really an attempt to undermine immigration reform efforts.
Their arguments are unfounded.
I have served for over 20 years as a Riverside immigration lawyer, and I’ve never met anyone who came here to obtain citizenship through an unborn child.
Even if that was a deliberate plan, the likelihood of success is thin. To carry out such a far-fetched idea would take well over 21 years. In fact, 33 years or longer.
Allow me to explain.
To begin, the unborn child would have to turn 21 before he or she could turn around and immigrate their parent.
Second, from the time the petition for the parent is filed, the parent has to wait several more years for their green card interview date at a consulate office abroad.
Then, since the parent arrived here or lived in the U.S. all that time without permission, the parent would have to return home for their green card interview. Last but not least, the parent would need to win a rarely-granted family unity I-601 waiver to be allowed back into the U.S.
Maybe opponents’ rhetoric accurately portrays the motivation of some immigrants – but the true figures are far, far, far less than they suggest.
The Pew Study: Fact Versus Fiction
According to a Pew Hispanic Center study, covering the period from March 2009 to March 2010, released two weeks ago:
- There were 350,000 babies born in the United States to couples where at least one parent was an undocumented immigrant.
- Among all births in the U.S., 74% were born to parents born in the United States. 17% were born to legal immigrants. The other 8% were born to families with at least one undocumented immigrant.
- Of the 8% with at least one undocumented immigrant parent, 61% were born to parents who arrived in the U.S. before 2004. 30% were born to parents who arrived here between 2004 and 2007. The remaining 9% were born to individuals who came to the United States in 2008 and after.
These statistics contradict the claims of immigration reform opponents who claim immigrants come to the United States simply to give birth to children here.
Less than 1% of children are born to undocumented immigrant parents who lived here less than two years before giving birth. And many of these children have one parent who is either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.
As a green card attorney, I know the reality for immigrants and citizens alike is love just happens.
As the Pew study shows, giving birth to a child born in the United States is normally a byproduct of living here.
Immigration opponents place the cart before the horse. They need to be honest. Lying to constituents is no way to serve the public.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics