Anchor Babies

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“Anchor baby” is a deprecatory term for a child born in the US to immigrant parents. Later as a US citizen, he/she can facilitate immigration for relatives. The term refers to the role of the child, who automatically becomes a US citizen and also qualifies later to sponsor other family members. This term, though frequently used while debating about illegal immigration in the US, is used for the child of any immigrant.

The initial immigration benefits of a child born in the US are limited. Such citizens cannot sponsor their parents to enter the US until they turn 21 years old. If the parent was in the US illegally, they will need to prove they had left the US and not returned for at least ten years before qualifying. Per the statistics gathered, there is a significant, and increasing number of illegal aliens having children in the US.

Per the Double-Tongued Dictionary, “anchor baby” is defined as “a child born of an immigrant in the US, said to be a device by which a family can find a legal foothold in the US since those children are automatically allowed to choose US citizenship.” Though there is confusion related to limiting the definition of the term to children of illegal immigrants, it is used for any immigrant. Those who follow this term oppose “all” immigration and immigrants, not illegal immigration alone.

The term remained low-key for a long time but became particularly noticeable since 2006, and has been quite often used by critics of immigration since that period. In the year 2011, the American Heritage Dictionary included an entry for the term “anchor baby” in the dictionary’s latest edition, which highlighted that this term was not depreciating or disparaging. After a strong objection from critics, the dictionary had to update its definition to reflect that the term is “offensive”.

According to the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, a person born in the US automatically are citizen of the country. They then are entitled to all benefits of US citizenship.

  • they qualify for Medicaid
  • when they are old enough, can receive in-state tuition from public colleges
  • they can work without restrictions.

As mentioned earlier, such citizen children qualify to sponsor their parents to come to the US. However, they have to wait till they turn 21 years old. Once the citizen child turns 18, he/she can sponsor his/her siblings with a 15 to 23-year quota delay. There are no other classifications for any other relatives that would apply in this situation. Also remember that, if the parents are staying illegally, they will generally be barred from immigration despite having a sponsor.

Apart from these, through US citizen children, parents do get some benefits in the short term. Pregnant mothers are entitled to receive food or nutritional vouchers under the federal WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program. Parents of such US citizen children who have been residing in the US for ten years or more may also apply for relief from deportation. However, only 4,000 persons can receive relief status every year. In the 2000s, nearly 88,000 parents of US citizen children were deported. Having a child to gain citizenship is extremely long-term, and not ascertainable.

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