‘Anchor baby’ debate: 14th Amendment born of GOP policies

We’ve all heard the phrase “anchor baby” by now. Some say the phrase is demeaning and racist. Others say that, at the least, it is misleading.

When people use the phrase, they are typically referring to babies born in the United States to parents who are here illegally. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that these babies, and anyone born in the United States, are automatically citizens.

Part of the current immigration debate is centered on the idea that people come to the U.S. to have babies and that those babies then make it harder to deport the parents, hence the “anchor” descriptor. One of those making that argument is American Constitution Party candidate for governor Tom Tancredo.

While Tancredo is not technically a Republican these days, it is interesting to note that the Republican Party website notes in at least two places that it was Republicans who pushed for the constitutional protection for everyone born in this country.

Even though Republicans had already pushed through a law giving citizenship to all born here, Republicans of the time didn’t think that was enough and pushed for the citizenship clause because they thought that would be harder to overturn later if political winds blew differently. The American Constitution Party, while touting its commitment to the Constitution, does not specifically mention the 14th Amendment on its website.

Generally speaking, just having a baby in the United States is not enough to enable parents to stay indefinitely. Babies cannot sponsor their own parents to become citizens until those babies turn 21— even then it can take awhile.

Many in the immigrant community, meanwhile, say that while some parents do come to the United States specifically to give birth, they do so in an effort to give their kids a better life, not to change their own fortunes.

Neither Tom Tancredo nor the American Constitution Party returned calls for this post.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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