Why the term “anchor babies” is offensive and inaccurate.

February 13, 2011Shahid Haque

KULR 8 news in Billings interviewed both me and Rep. James Knox about his unconstitutional bill to exclude children of immigrants and dual citizens from Montana state citizenship. The interview also focussed on the term “anchor babies” and why it is a highly offensive term.   The news story and video are available by clicking here.

The term “anchor babies” is one of the most offensive and pejorative terms being thrown around when talking about immigrants. It is based on the false belief that when an immigrant has a baby in the United States, that prevents the child’s parents from being removed and gives them some form of immigration status.  That is not true.  In actuality, a child can only confer immigration status to his or her parent when the child reaches age 21.  Every years, tens of thousands of parents of U.S. citizen are deported — amounting to over 100,000 deportations over the last ten years.

Of course, the term is not intended to be accurate.  It is designed to dehumanize these young children, by stereotyping and casting a false motivation on their birth. Rather than recognizing that immigrants have families for the same reasons as the rest of us, this term is meant to differentiate immigrants, so that we can justify treating them as less than human, and less deserving of the same rights are privileges as the rest of us.

Dehumanizing language like this is dangerous.  Historically, we have seen this kind of language referring to children the “disfavored” groups of the era.  These included Irish, German, Chinese, Eastern European, and, most prominently, African-Americans.  Rather than merely having children, members of these groups were said to be “breeding” or “multiplying.”  The term “anchor babies” is just another example of language meant to dehumanize children of immigrants and infringe upon their reproductive freedoms.

People who use the term “anchor baby” would actually be referring to me.  I am the child of two immigrants.  Over 30 years ago, my parents came to the U.S. from Pakistan. My father was a doctor, and he came here to work in an underserved community with a shortage of medical professionals.  When I was born, my parents weren’t citizens yet.

My parents certainly didn’t have me in order to stay here in the country.  They became citizens on their own several years later.  But that’s the problem with using a term like “anchor baby” to sweepingly refer to children of non-citizens.  It is clear stereotyping and assigns a cynical motive behind one of our most fundamental human rights — the right to raise a family.I just had my first son.  If you don’t know why the term is so offensive, try imagining how you would feel if someone referred to your own child in that way. I know how angry I would be if I ever heard that term used about my son.  I’d imagine you would feel the same way.

Advocating for immigrants.

The Border Crossing Law Firm is a full-service immigration law firm, offering help with visas, green cards, citizenship, and deportation proceedings. We have been committed to the immigrant community for two decades, representing thousands of immigrants and their families across the country.