Anchor baby

"Anchor baby" is a pejorative term for a child born in the United States to immigrant parents, who, as an American citizen, supposedly can later facilitate immigration for relatives.[1][2] The term is generally used as a derogatory reference to the supposed role of the child who automatically qualifies as an American citizen and can later act as a sponsor for other family members[2][3] The term is often used in the context of the debate over illegal immigration to the United States, but is used for the child of any immigrant.[1] The practical immigration benefit of having a child born in the US is disputed; family reunification (family-based immigration) in the United States is a lengthy process and limited by law to categories prescribed by provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.[4]


History and usage

A related term, "anchor child", referring in this case to very young immigrants who will later sponsor immigration for family members who are still abroad,[1] was used in reference to Vietnamese boat people in the early 1980s and early 1990s.[5][6]

According to the Double-Tongued Dictionary, edited by American lexicographer Grant Barrett, the term "anchor baby" means "a child born of an immigrant in the United States, said to be a device by which a family can find legal foothold in the US, since those children are automatically allowed to choose United States citizenship."[1] In response to a reader's proposed alternate definition seeking to limit the definition of the term to children of illegal immigrants, Barrett states: is used for *any* immigrant. Those who use this term tend to be opposed to *all* immigration and immigrants, not illegal immigration, especially those who use their immigration stance as a mask for racism and xenophobia.[1]

Hispanic activist group the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) reports usage of the term towards pregnant Latinas (in reference to the child, as captured on video):[7][8]

July 7th, 2007 – Fallbrook, CA: As a funeral service gets underway at the nearby Church, a Minuteman yells "pick your slaves" to prospective day laborer employers and attempts to provoke an activist. A Minutewoman can be heard saying "anchor baby on the way" to a Latina activist who is pregnant.

Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin has asserted that "the custom of granting automatic citizenship at birth to children of tourists and temporary workers such as Yaser Esam Hamdi, tourists, and to countless 'anchor babies' delivered by illegal aliens on American soil, undermines the integrity of citizenship—not to mention national security".[9]

The Pew Hispanic Center determined that according to an analysis of Census Bureau data about 8 percent of children born in the United States in 2008 — about 340,000 — were offspring of unauthorized immigrants. In total, 4 million U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents resided in this country in 2009, alongside 1.1 million foreign-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents.[10]


The term "anchor baby" assumes that having a US citizen child confers immigration benefits on the parents and extended family, as immigration law does allow a US citizen child to sponsor his/her parents when he/she turns 21 without numerical limitation (i.e. there is not an annual quota).[11] In addition to this, under current law and USCIS policy, individuals who entered illegally (EWI or Entry without Inspection) may not adjust while in the country. However, leaving the country triggers an automatic ban on re-entering the U.S.: If the parent was present in the U.S. for between 180 and 364 days, the parent will get a 3 year ban from the date that they left the U.S.; if the parent was present for 365 days or more, the parent will get a ten year ban from the date that they left the U.S. Unless the parent is willing to live out the ban outside the country, the parent may not regularize their status through the child.[12][13]

Once the child turns 18, immigration law also allows a US citizen to sponsor his/her own siblings subject to numerical limitations.[14] The wait time (as of November 2011) for sponsoring a sibling varies depending on the country of origin (23 years for the Philippines; 15 years for Mexico; and 11 years for all other countries).[15]

On August 17, 2006, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn used the term "anchor baby" in reference to Saul Arellano, in a column critical of his mother, who had been given sanctuary at a Chicago church, and advocating her arrest and deportation on immigration-related charges.[16] After receiving two complaints, the next day Eric Zorn stated in his defense in his Chicago Tribune blog that the term had appeared in newspaper stories since 1997, "usually softened by quotations as in my column", and stated that he regretted having used the term in his column and promised not to use it again in the future.

On August 23, 2007, the San Diego, California-area North County Times came under criticism from one of its own former columnists, Raoul Lowery Contreras, in a column titled "'Anchor babies' is hate speech", for allowing the term "anchor baby" to be printed in letters and opinion pieces.[17]

In a September 3, 2008, debate in Danville, Virginia, Republican Congressman Virgil Goode declared that the greatest threat to America's national security was "anchor babies". He discussed H.R. 1940, the "Birthright Citizenship Act of 2007"[18] that would have amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to consider a person born in the United States "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States for citizenship at birth purposes if the person is born in the United States of parents one of whom is (1) a U.S. citizen or national; (2) a lawful permanent-resident alien whose residence is in the United States; or (3) an alien performing active service in the U.S. armed forces. Goode argued that H.R. 1940 would "end the anchor baby situation", and he blamed Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the fact that H.R. 1940 has not gone anywhere; his opponent, Democrat Tom Perriello, noted that similar legislation did not even make it out of committee when the Republicans controlled Congress, and that the Republican leadership, including then-President George W. Bush and then-Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, did not support the bill either.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Barrett, Grant, ed. "Double Tongued Dictionary". "Anchor baby: n. a child born of an immigrant in the United States, said to be a device by which a family can find legal foothold in the US, since those children are automatically allowed to choose American citizenship. Also anchor child, a very young immigrant who will later sponsor citizenship for family members who are still abroad.... it is used for *any* immigrant. Those who use this term tend to be opposed to *all* immigration and immigrants...." 
  2. ^ a b Barrett, Grant (December 24, 2006). "Buzzwords: Glossary". New York Times. "anchor baby: a derogatory term for a child born in the United States to an immigrant. Since these children automatically qualify as American citizens, they can later act as a sponsor for other family members." 
  3. ^ Zorn, Eric (August 18, 2006). "Sinking 'Anchor Babies". Chicago Tribune. "'They use it to spark resentment against immigrants,' Rivlin said of his ideological foes. 'They use it to make these children sound non-human.' To me, that's good enough reason to regret having used it and to decide not to use it in the future." 
  4. ^ "Immigration and Nationality Act". Department of Homeland Security, USCIS. Retrieved May 29, 2010. 
  5. ^ "A Profile of a Lost Generation". Los Angeles Times Magazine: p. 12. December 13, 1987. "They are “anchor children,” saddled with the extra burden of having to attain a financial foothold in America to sponsor family members who remain in Vietnam." 
  6. ^ Kelly, Frances (June 2, 1991). "Sympathy for the boat people is wearing thin". Toronto Star: p. H2. "Known as “anchor” children, aid workers say the youngsters are put on boats by families who hope they’ll be resettled in the United States or Canada and can then apply to have their families join them." 
  7. ^ Minutemen protest near a church on YouTube
  8. ^ "We can Stop the Hate: Hate Flashpoints". National Council of La Raza. 
  9. ^ Malkin, Michelle (July 4, 2003). "What makes an American?". Jewish World Review. 
  10. ^ Pew Hispanic Center: "Unauthorized Immigrants and Their U.S.-Born Children" August 11, 2010
  11. ^ US Citizenship & Immigration Service: IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY ACT ACT 201-WORLDWIDE LEVEL OF IMMIGRATION: Sec 201, (b) Aliens Not Subject to Direct Numerical Limitations, (2)(A)(i) Immediate relatives. - For purposes of this subsection, the term "immediate relatives" means the children, spouses, and parents of a citizen of the United States, except that, in the case of parents, such citizens shall be at least 21 years of age | retrieved October 24, 2011
  12. ^ Additional Guidance for Implementing Sections 212(a)(6) and 212(a)(9) of the Immigration and Nationality Act: Section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Act: Three and Ten-Year Bars to Admission
  13. ^ IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY ACT \ INA: ACT 212 ACT 212 - GENERAL CLASSES OF ALIENS INELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE VISAS AND INELIGIBLE FOR ADMISSION; WAIVERS OF INADMISSIBILLITY: Section (9)(B)(i) In general.-Any alien (other than an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence) who- (I) was unlawfully present in the United States for a period of more than 180 days but less than 1 year, voluntarily departed the United States (whether or not pursuant to section 244(e)...and again seeks admission within 3 years of the date of such alien's departure or removal, or (II) has been unlawfully present in the United States for one year or more, and who again seeks admission within 10 years of the date of such alien's departure or removal from the United States, is inadmissible.
  14. ^ IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY ACT / INA: ACT 203 ACT 203 - ALLOCATION OF IMMIGRANT VISAS: sec Sec. 203 (a)(4)Brothers and sisters of citizens. - Qualified immigrants who are the brothers or sisters of citizens of the United States, if such citizens are at least 21 years of age, shall be allocated visas in a number not to exceed 65,000...
  15. ^ Department of State: Visa Bulletin For November 2011 Consular officers are required to report to the Department of State documentarily qualified applicants for numerically limited visas; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security reports applicants for adjustment of status. Allocations were made, to the extent possible, in chronological order of reported priority dates, for demand received by October 5th. If not all demand could be satisfied, the category or foreign state in which demand was excessive was deemed oversubscribed. The cut-off date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who could not be reached within the numerical limits. Only applicants who have a priority date earlier than the cut-off date may be allotted a number. / see "FAMILY-SPONSORED PREFERENCES,(F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens" for cut-off dates
  16. ^ Zorn, Eric (August 17, 2006). "Deportation Standoff Not helping Cause". Chicago Tribune.,0,2711021.column. 
  17. ^ Contreras, Raoul Lowery (August 23, 2007). "'Anchor babies' is hate speech". North County Times. 
  18. ^ H.R. 1940, from
  19. ^ Perriello on Immigration; Goode on 'Anchor Babies'. Danville, Va.. September 3, 2008. 

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