Friday, December 9, 2011

It's Official. My Children Are Anchor Babies.

The first new edition of the American Heritage Dictionary in 10 years contained 10,000 new words. The term “anchor baby” is included. The original definition did not include any indication that the phrase is a slur and offensive, as it does for other words. (The online edition only has just been changed to note that the phrase is offensive, but did not change the definition).

The current definition the dictionary gives for anchor baby is:

“A child born to a non-citizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child's birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother's or other relatives' chances of securing eventual citizenship."

A more appropriate definition would be:

"Slang, a pejorative description of a child born in the United States to parents who are both without legal status", implying that the parents intend to leverage the child’s citizenship to “anchor” their own presence in the U.S.”

I have 2 issues with the current definition.

1. "Non-citizen mother" includes all non-citizen mothers, whether in the US legally or not, and ignores the citizenship of the father.

2. "in a country" means all countries use the term anchor baby. The phrase anchor baby is not used much outside the U.S.

When my children were born I was not yet eligible for US citizenship, but I was a legal immigrant with a green card. So my children were born to a non-citizen mother. Therefore, according to the definition in the dictionary, my children are anchor babies. Their father is a US citizen, but again no mention is made in this definition of the nationality of the father.

Several bills have been introduced from time to time in Congress which seek to nullify the US citizenship of “anchor babies”. Unsure whether these bills would survive legal challenges, some legislators have proposed a change to the Constitution to deny and/or retroactively strip “anchor babies” of US citizenship. It all comes down to semantics. If a definition in the dictionary uses “non-citizen” mother, instead of “parents without legal status”, it’s likely future legislation will mirror the definition in the dictionary.

As a result, my childrens' US citizenship status is now at risk.

I believe that all children born in the US, or any country, should be granted citizenship as a birthright, regardless of the immigration status of the parents. The immigration system in the US is inhumane and does not work, but this is not an effective way to fix it. Having said that, this post is about my viewpoint as a legal immigrant living in the US.

The problem I had living in the US was that the anti-immigrant hysteria in the States caused “legal immigrants” to be penalized simply because they are not US citizens.

There is no sense of security living in a country where the basic rules are subject to change. Are my children going to be stripped retroactively of their US citizenship? My US driving licence was suspended in Florida,(read more here) and I was left without a licence for 30 days, simply because the clerk didn't understand my green card was proof that I was living in the country legally.

The DMV clerk who revoked my driving licence was like most Americans who do not understand the difference between "legal" immigrant and "illegal" immigrant and believe "non-citizen" means they are in the country illegally.

Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University said that skilled immigrants are leaving the US.

If immigrants feel unsafe living in the US they will return to their home countries, and it will be America’s loss.

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