Anchor Babies: The Business of “Born in the USA.”

Arizona, already a hotbed of immigration controversy, recently reported that they’re drafting a new bill which would take aim at the children of illegal immigrants who reside in their state.   The bill would essentially deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born in Arizona.   The enforcement of this bill will certainly be challenged by the U.S. Justice Department because it blatantly defies our 14th Amendment, which gives automatic citizenship to every child born in the U.S.   Ironically, the 14th Amendment was enacted shortly after the end of the Civil War, as a means of assuring that newly emancipated slaves and their offspring were guaranteed citizenship.

Every year thousands of poor illegal immigrants risk their lives at a chance to live in the U.S., many of them are women, who hope to either deliver their baby on U.S. soil or have the opportunity to conceive prior to a possible deportation.     These children have been derisively coined “anchor babies” because they provide an anchor for the mother in her attempt to become an U.S. citizen, it also provides a gateway for citizenship for the remainder of her immediate family to legally migrate to the U.S.   The term “anchor babies” has been used for many years as a pejorative to describe Mexican Americans and other Latinos who are descendants of illegal immigrants, but the business of Born in the USA goes far beyond Mexican-Americans.

The Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates there are between 287,000 and 363,000 children born to illegal aliens each year.    These numbers are based on the crude birth rate of the total foreign-born population (33 births per 1,000) and official estimates of the size of the illegal alien population–between 8.7 and 11 million.    Although those estimates may actually skew higher due to the unreliability of documenting a group of people who would rather remain anonymous, for obvious reasons.    Some agencies have reported that the number of  “anchor babies” born in the United States each year could be as high as 726,000.  (Source: Accuracy in Media)

In 2002, the LA Times reported on the booming and yet clandestine business of birthright tourism.  Los Angeles is a popular destination for Koreans, Taiwanese and Hong Kong residents because of its diversity and established Asian communities that cater to women who can afford to travel to the U.S. to give birth.   Asian-American businesses have caught on to this trend, and now provide upscale birthing centers, that may provide amenities such as a private car, advanced medical care, assistance with their passport and citizenship paperwork.  Estimates on the cost of a typical stay are approximately $20,000, including medical cost. 

This practice is believed to be popular among women in Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.   According to Edward Chang, a scholar of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Riverside, the practice is popular among the elite of South Korea, since sons of these women can avoid compulsory military service.   Temporary homes for these mothers are often located in residential neighborhoods, which neighbors allege decrease the quality of life in the neighborhood, primarily due to increases in traffic and other business-like effects.  (Source: LA Times)

The South Korean women giving birth in the United States tend to be well educated and upper-class, with big ambitions for their children.   Since many have been to America before and have good jobs in South Korea, they are deemed unlikely to overstay their welcome and thus can easily obtain tourist visas. (Source: LA Times).  

In the 1980s, Britain and Australia altered their birthright laws due to the increasing number of foreigners seeking to take advantage of similar birthing opportunities in their respective countries.   Perhaps it’s time to close that loophole in our Constitution, which perpetuates the commercialization of being born in the USA, and put an end to the process of placing a price tag on the right to be born here.   

The intent of the 14th amendment was to protect those who were most in danger of becoming marginalized and disenfranchised after the Civil War.   Instead, it now serves as a giant loophole that offers hope to many foreigners of potentially cashing in on their golden goose, but at the expense of reducing the privilege of being born here into a price.