Fox & Friends hosted Dan Stein, head of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), to fearmonger both about "anchor babies" and so-called "birth tourism." But the "anchor baby" concept is a myth, pushed by anti-immigrant groups like FAIR, which is considered a "hate group," and the number of children born to women visiting the United States is "fairly miniscule."
Fox & Friends Hosts Head Of Hate Group To Push "Anchor Baby" Myth
Stein Cites Children Of "Illegal Aliens" Born In The U.S. To Argue For Changing The 14th Amendment. On the March 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson introduced an interview with FAIR President Dan Stein by discussing reports of alleged birth tourism in which Carlson said, "pregnant women from foreign countries [are] paying thousands of dollars to give birth in the U.S." Carlson then stated, "So we wondered, how common is this practice?" Stein claimed it's a "routine occurance." He continued, tying such actions to children of undocumented immigrants who were born in the United States:
STEIN: The current interpretation [of the 14th Amendment] is defeating the operation of U.S. immigration and entry controls. We are being taken advantage of, snookered -- now 350,000 children are born here to mothers here who are illegal aliens. I mean, that's the size of the city of St. Louis. This is like waking up and finding an additional 10 people living in your house that you didn't expect all of a sudden, and we're just being taken advantage of. And to simply -- we need to change the interpretation so it's consistent with the worldwide practices that say a child takes the citizenship of the mother. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/30/11]
In Fact, Study Shows "Anchor Baby" Concept Is A Myth
Pew Research Center Data Shows 91% Of Immigrants Arrived At Least Two Years Before Having A Child. A February 1 Pew Hispanic Center study showed that of the 350,000 immigrants cited by Stein who had children in the United States in 2009, "61% arrived in the U.S. before 2004, 30% arrived from 2004 to 2007, and 9% arrived from 2008 to 2010." [Pew Hispanic Center, 2/1/11]
Serwer: "People Come To The U.S. To Get Jobs, Not To Have Babies." In a February 2 post on The American Prospect's blog, Adam Serwer wrote that "Contrary to [Sen. Lindsey] Graham's 'drop and leave' theory, only 9 percent of undocumented immigrants had children shortly after arriving, and there's a distinct lack of evidence that any of them had children for that reason." Serwer continued:
The data suggests a really shocking conclusion: People come to the U.S. to get jobs, not to have babies. That means that repealing birthright citizenship isn't likely to stem illegal immigration, because it doesn't alter the incentives that cause people to come here. It will, without a doubt, lead to higher numbers of undocumented immigrants and the creation of a new, nationless class of children within U.S. borders. If, on the other hand, you're trying to reduce the population of Latino citizens rather than the number of undocumented immigrants, repealing birthright citizenship is one route to take. [The American Prospect, 2/2/11]
Think Progress: Pew Study Findings "Pretty Much Invalidate" The "Anchor Baby" Claim. In a February 1 post on Think Progress' Wonk Room blog, Andrea Nill cited the Pew study and noted:
The implications of these findings pretty much invalidate the argument that is at the center of the birthright citizenship debate.
Just about every Republican lawmaker who supports reinterpreting or changing the 14th Amendment to eliminate the guarantee that all persons born in the U.S. are automatically citizens agrees with that logic. However, Pew's data essentially disproves it.
It's hard to imagine that 91 percent of undocumented immigrants made the perilous journey to the U.S. to have children and then risked detection and deportation for several years before fulfilling their supposed goal of having a family of U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, it's unclear whether the nine percent who did end up having a child shortly after arriving in the U.S. came here for that purpose. [Think Progress, 2/1/11]
Time: 2010 Pew Study "Blows A Giant Hole In The Notion That Mothers Are Crossing" The Border To Become Citizens. In an August 2010 post on Time magazine's Swampland blog, Kate Pickert wrote:
For starters, how long were these illegal immigrant mothers in the U.S. before their children were born? The report itself does not answer this crucial question, so I called Jeff Passel, co-author of the report. He told me that based on the years that the report's underlying data was produced, he knows that "well over 80%" of the 340,000 births cited in the report happened to women who had been in the U.S. more than one year. That blows a giant hole in the notion that mothers are crossing the U.S.-Mexican border just in time to give birth in American hospitals. [Time, 8/11/10]
PolitiFact: "Having An 'Anchor Baby' Won't Do Much To Help A Mexican Mom Become A U.S. Citizen." In an August, 2010 post, PolitiFact noted:
It's important to note that having an "anchor baby" won't do much to help a Mexican mom become a U.S. citizen. Because citizen children cannot sponsor their parents for citizenship until they turn 21 -- and because if the parents were ever illegal, they would have to return home for 10 years before applying to come in -- having a baby to secure citizenship for its parents is an extremely long-term, and uncertain, process. [PolitiFact, 8/6/10]
"Anchor Babies" Claim Misleadingly Suggests Undocumented Immigrants Can Easily Get Legal Status
U.S.-Born Children Of Undocumented Parents Must Be 21 Before Petitioning To Bring Their Parents To U.S. Legally. Under federal law, a U.S. citizen must be 21 years old to petition to bring alien parents or other relatives into the United States as legal immigrants. [U.S. Code § 1151, accessed 3/30/11, via Cornell University Law School]
Restriction Intended To Prevent "Wholesale Circumvention Of The Immigration Laws." The Congressional Research Service has reported of the requirement: "Federal courts have found that this requirement is meant 'to prevent wholesale circumvention of the immigration laws by persons who enter the country illegally and promptly have children to avoid deportation,' and does not violate equal protection by distinguishing between U.S.-citizen children who are minors and those who have attained majority." [Congressional Research Service, 9/13/05]
Process To Petition For Parents' Citizenship Is Arduous. According to a research document on "The Anchor Baby Myth" produced by the Scott Immigration Law Firm:
A child born in the US is a US citizen, but the immigration benefits to the parents are extremely limited. After the alien mother (or father) has been present for no less than ten years, the alien may apply for Cancellation of Removal (aka "Cancellation") if she can prove ten years of good moral character and that deporting her would be an exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to her US citizen child. This is an unusual form of relief as there is an annual cap of 4000 on the number of illegal immigrants who can be granted this type of Cancellation, and for the past several years the government has not reached that cap. This means that under 4000 people are granted this type of Cancellation annually.
Once the child turns 21, he can file a visa petition for the parent. The Restrictionists present this information as though it then becomes a simple matter of filing paperwork. What they don't tell you is that if the parent entered without inspection, the parent is not able to apply for a green card from within the US. She would have to apply for a visa at the consulate. But because she was previously unlawfully present for more than a year, she will be banned from entering the US for ten years. As the child is not a qualifying relative for a waiver of this ground of inadmissibility, she would not be able to return to the US legally for ten years despite have a US citizen child over age 21.
Even if the parent had entered the US lawfully and/or were not subject to the ten-year ban, the adult child would still need to prove that he has enough income to support the parent(s) and himself at no less than 125% of the poverty level. Under the 2009 poverty guidelines, a person wanting to sponsor both parents would have to show he makes at least $22,887, an income level many 21-year-olds have trouble achieving. The child may seek a co-sponsor to help meet the income requirement, but even so, it's clear that legalizing one's parents takes more than the mere filing of papers. Every year many US citizens petition for their parents, but there is no indication that US-born children of illegal immigrants are filing a majority of parental petitions. [Scott Immigration Law Firm document, accessed 3/30/11]
Moreover, Number Of Babies Born To Tourists In U.S. Is "Fairly Minuscule"
ABC: Recent Data Shows 0.17 Percent Of All U.S. Births Were "Born To Mothers Who Said They Do Not Live Here." An April 14, 2010, ABCNews.com article --which was misleadingly headlined, "A New Baby Boom? Foreign 'Birth Tourists' Seek U.S. Citizenship for Children"-- reported that "[o]f the 4,273,225 live births in the United States in 2006, the most recent data gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics, 7,670 were children born to mothers who said they do not live here," or 0.17 percent of all live births in 2006. [Media Matters, 4/16/10; ABCNews.Go.com, 4/14/10]
ABC: "[I]t Is Difficult To Know For Sure" How Many Of The Nonresident Mothers Were "Birth Tourists." Further undermining ABC's headline, the article stated, "Many, but not all, of those mothers could be 'birth tourists,' experts say, although it is difficult to know for sure." The article continued: "The government does not track the reasons non-resident mothers are in the United States at the time of the birth or their citizenship, meaning births to illegal immigrants who live in the United States are counted in the overall total." [Media Matters, 4/16/10]
NPR's Frank James: "We're Talking About A Fairly Minuscule Number" When You Look At The Statistics. On NPR's The Two-Way blog, Frank James noted the 7,670 figure cited in the ABC article and wrote: "Wait, that's less than two-tenths of one percent [of all live births]. So we're talking about a fairly minuscule number." He then cited the article's claim that "it is difficult to know for sure" how many mothers could be "birth tourists" and wrote, "So the number of possible 'birth tourists' is even a smaller subset of what was already a pretty paltry number." James concluded, "Much less dramatic an issue when looked at that way, no?" [Media Matters, 4/16/10]
Stein's Group FAIR Is Considered An Anti-Immigrant Hate Group
SPLC Designated FAIR An Anti-Immigrant Hate Group. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), FAIR is an anti-immigrant hate group. SPLC noted:
Although FAIR maintains a veneer of legitimacy that has allowed its principals to testify in Congress and lobby the federal government, this veneer hides much ugliness. FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content. FAIR's founder, John Tanton, has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population: a goal to be achieved, presumably, by limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country. One of the group's main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans. FAIR President Dan Stein has called the Act a "mistake." [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 3/30/11]