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Anchor’s Away! A look Inside the 14th Amendment and the Politicians Who Love to Hate It
Section 1 of the 14th Amendment states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
This means that all persons born on US soil are considered citizens of the United States. The legal term for this is Jus Soli. This has been the law of the land in regard to citizenship in the United States for more than 142 years (and even before, if you allow for the precedent—although applied discriminatorily—of an English case from 1608 establishing the concept of Jus Soli in the British Empire). But if certain politicians have their way, this established legal concept may go the way of slavery, i.e. be abolished (which ironically is how the concept became memorialized in the US Constitution). If you have a baby, be ready to prove your own citizenship to government bureaucrats before applying for a US passport for the darling apple of your eye.
Recently, lawmakers from 14 states have proposed amending the 14th Amendment to remove Jus Soli as a means for transmittal of citizenship at birth. What is the big deal with the 14th Amendment by crossing into the United States solely to bear a child on US soil and thus grant the previously “illegal” immigrant instant status in the United States. Amendment and why do these states want to change it? Even though it’s been in effect for over 140 years….Well the answer is “Anchor Babies”. The term “Anchor Babies” is a derogatory term used against undocumented immigrants to imply they take advantage the 14th Amendment.
But, like a lot of things said by politicians, the term “Anchor Babies” is an intentional misconception used to fan the flames of irrational popular (and often dangerous) sentiment. Children of illegal immigrants born in the United States may derive US citizenship from Jus Soli, but they “anchor” no one. Having as US citizen child does not automatically protect an undocumented parent from deportation. And that US-citizen child could not petition for her/his parents until 21 years of age (and even then, with difficult legal restrictions that make the parents’ obtaining legal status no slam dunk.
But these legal facts do not stop several high-profile politicians and members of the media from exploiting the derogatory phrase “Anchor Baby:”
Ann Coulter, noted conservative columnist: “I have had enough of ‘deadbeats’ … sneak[ing] into the country and [having] babies to get on welfare … We need a ticker for how much anchor babies are costing America.”
I wonder if it would shock Coulter, or matter to her rhetoric at all, if someone pointed out that having a US-citizen child does not qualify the parent for welfare. What does she suggest? Does she support again creating classes of people who reside in the United States based upon how their parents/ grandparents/ great-grandparents, etc., arrived? Isn’t this how the Dred Scott decision enshrined the practice of discrimination into the law in the first half of the 1800’s? And didn’t we fight a bloody Civil War to eventually amend the US Constitution so that a person of African decent would no longer be worth only 3/5 of a person?
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham: “They come here to drop a child. It’s called ‘drop and leave.’ To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child’s automatically an American citizen.”
And? (Note the inconsistency: In Graham’s version of the fairy tale, the child’s mother leaves, whereas Coulter has her somehow getting on welfare.)
Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, a proud discipline of Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who is under investigation by the US Department of Justice for alleged civil rights violations), and an enthusiastic Tea Partier: “The ‘anchor baby’ thing needs to be fixed ... Anchor babies are an unconstitutional declaration of citizenship to those born of non-Americans. It’s wrong, and it’s immoral.”
Actually, wasn’t the US Constitution recently read on the Floor of the US House? Even if he missed this act by the new Republican majority, a plain reading of the 14th Amendment—this can be confirmed above—clearly establishes that Jus Soli citizenship is very much constitutional. Maybe Pearce should put down his tea bags long enough to pick up and read the US Constitution. Except for the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, Pearce’s official website notably indicates his preference for the flowery aspirational language of the Declaration of Independence over the law of the land set forth in the US Constitution. And just how is following the rule of law “immoral,” as he claims?]
The United States is going through self-examination of what it means to be an American. The old guard is scared, and they want us to be, too. We can follow our firmly established laws and have equality and respect under that law … or we can succumb to inflammatory words and derogatory terms like “Anchor Baby” that seek to bring back the harshly stratified, Jim Crow society that our country left behind long ago.
Written by by Andrew Sagartz, MBA, JD and Rene Ruedas