Anchor Babies - A Battle Over Birthrights
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The often derisively used term anchor baby refers to any child born in the United States of undocumented immigrants. Under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, that child is automatically an American citizen and that's a point of contention for many politicians. The common belief is that the American child can sponsor his or her parents for legal status in the U.S. What politicians fail to bring up in their arguments is that child can't sponsor anyone until he or she reaches the age of 21. Giving birth to a child in the U.S. so you can be sponsored 21 years later gives a new meaning to the term family planning. The 14th Amendment has come under different interpretations many times over the years and arguments supporting it and against it tends to stick their opposition on the interpretation of the same phrase.
The intent of the 14th Amendment
The amendment reads that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside." For many who oppose the "anchor baby" concept the key to the intent of the Amendment is the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof". Their argument is that the parents of the child, being illegally in the country, are under the jurisdiction of their home country not the United States. Their point is that illegals that have a child in the U.S. are no different than diplomats who have children born in the U.S. The diplomat's child is not under the jurisdiction of America but rather the jurisdiction of the country they represent. But at the heart of the anti anchor baby movement is the burning belief that it is simply a way to open our borders to more illegals who will come to America and live off the generous benefits offered. The pro anchor baby faction argues that the amendment is perfectly clear. If a person is born within the boundaries of a state then they are under the jurisdiction of that state and therefore an American citizen. End of argument.
A Quick History
But it hasn't always been that clear. The 14th Amendment was originally adopted to reverse the Dred Scott decision and provide citizenship to the freed slaves after the Civil War. That's was a noble effort to advance basic human rights for every American. In the late 1890s the concept of the anchor baby emerged when the Supreme Court decided that a man who was born of Chinese immigrant parents who were Chinese citizens but who were permanently domiciled and who operated a business in the U.S was in fact a U.S. citizen. However it wasn't until 1924 that Native Americans were considered citizens. The argument was they belonged to separate nations that the federal government had entered into treaties with and as a result were not subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Regardless of the side of the argument that you support, anchor babies do not represent an immediate threat of immigration. Twenty one years is a long time. A legislative effort to amend the constitution or to draft law prohibiting anchor baby rights is simply wasted time. Time that could be better used to solve the many other economic and social challenges that face this country.