NY Times Slurs American-Born Children Of Foreign Nationals As "Anchor Babies"


In an article on New York businesses that cater to new immigrant women from China who have recently given birth, The New York Times used the term "anchor babies" in referring to women who "come to the United States to give birth so that the children would be American citizens." The term "anchor babies" has been identified, among other things, as "derogatory," "racist," "ugly," and "derisive"; moreover, data show "anchor babies" to be a myth.

NY Times Publishes Article With "Derogatory, Even Racist" Term "Anchor Babies"

NY Times: "So-Called Anchor Babies" Are Children Of Women Who "Come To The United States To Give Birth So That The Children Would Be American Citizens." In a June 3 article on centers catering to new immigrant women from China who have recently given birth, The New York Times reported that the "centers largely fly below the radar of English-language authorities," but that in March, California officials "shut down what they said was a home for women who had come to the United States to give birth so that the children would be American citizens -- so-called anchor babies." The article also quoted Jessica Vaughan, director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, (CIS) discussing "so-called maternity tourism":

To Western ears, confinement sounds like something out of a Victorian novel, but in some traditional Asian cultures, women still spend the month after a baby's birth in pampered seclusion. Typically, a woman's relatives would care for her, but more recently, the practice has been outsourced to postpartum doulas and confinement centers, like the one Ms. [Katy] Lu operates. In the United States, they cater to middle-class immigrant women separated from their families. Business is steady enough in New York City to support at least four postpartum centers, tucked away in the heavily Asian-immigrant neighborhoods of Flushing and Bayside, Queens.

The centers largely fly below the radar of English-language authorities -- they advertise online or in Chinese-language publications. They make up such a niche market that city and state authorities did not know they even existed. Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the state Health Department, said that as long as the centers were not offering medical services, they would not require a license. A spokeswoman for the city Health Department said that it had no information on the centers.

But they made a brief appearance in the news when, in March, officials in San Gabriel, Calif., shut down what they said was a home for women who had come to the United States to give birth so that the children would be American citizens -- so-called anchor babies.

It's unclear whether New York's confinement centers cater to that market. Generally they practice a "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding their clients' origins.


There are no hard numbers on how many women might be using the New York centers for so-called maternity tourism. And nationwide, "we really have no way of knowing," said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that seeks tougher immigration laws. Government agencies and immigration advocacy groups said they did not track such numbers. [The New York Times, 6/3/11]

NY Times Previously Quoted CIS' Krikorian To Spread Fears About "Maternity Tourists" And Their Allegedly Dangerous Offspring. From a March 28 New York Times article on a center in California catering to new immigrants from China:

The State Department, which grants tourist visas, is not permitted to deny visa applications simply because a woman is pregnant.

"These people aren't doing anything in violation of our laws," said Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates tougher immigration controls. "But if anything, it is worse than illegal immigrants delivering a baby here. Those kids are socialized as Americans. This phenomenon of coming to the U.S. and then leaving with people who have unlimited access to come back is just ridiculous." [The New York Times, 3/28/11]

"Anchor Baby" Term Has Been Blasted As "Racist," "Ugly," "Derogatory," "Pejorative"

Civil Rights Lawyer: Term "Plays To Coarse Racial And Gender Stereotypes." In a piece responding to remarks by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for the Spring edition of The Public Eye Magazine, Sherrilyn Ifill, a civil rights lawyer and law professor at the University of Maryland, wrote that the term "anchor babies" is part of "[r]eactionary rhetoric," a "catchy phrase that insult[s] immigrant families." She further wrote:

The crude use of the term "anchor baby" to describe a child born to an undocumented Mexican mother in the United States is part of a long tradition of the successful deployment of imagery that plays to coarse racial and gender stereotypes.


It both demonizes Mexican mothers, who allegedly use their newborns as tickets to welfare and other citizenship benefits, and dehumanizes their children as just so much immigration baggage. The thin logic behind this notion is illustrated by Lindsey Graham's claim that the process of coming to the U.S. to have "anchor babies" is called "drop and leave." Either Mexican women are crossing the border to have their babies in the U.S. to obtain welfare benefits, or they are having babies and leaving for Mexico. Both cannot be true.


Of course, no empirical data has ever been presented to support the existence of "anchor babies." Instead the same anecdotes are circulated as right-wing talking points: hotels that offer "birth holidays" in the U.S.; pregnant Mexicans who time their dilation precisely and show up at hospitals across the border. In fact, the Mexican-national parent of a U.S. born infant could not even apply for citizenship until the child was 21 years old. [vii] Thereafter, the average wait time for the successful processing of a citizenship application is ten years. This means that a Mexican-national mother would have to wait at least 31 years for her baby to provide her with the reward of citizenship -- an unlikely motivation for her to give birth in the U.S.

Mexicans come to the United States for the same reason that millions of immigrants have traveled to the U.S. over the past 200 years: economic survival. The impending birth of a child can make the need for employment and a chance at a better life even more urgent than usual. Irish, Scottish, Italians, Norwegians, Russians, and others were assisted by U.S. immigration policies that until the 1960s discriminated in favor of European immigrants. This "affirmative action" ensured that millions of White children born in the U.S. to newly arrived families would never be labeled "anchor babies." [The Public Eye Magazine, Spring 2011]

Fox News' Juan Williams: Term Is "Derisive, Ugly." On Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, contributor Juan Williams called the term "anchor baby" "derisive" and "ugly":

WILLIAMS: When you hear Republicans Lindsay Graham, John Boehner, John McCain saying that we've got to look at the 14th Amendment, and it may be what -- you know, I think it's a rather derisive, ugly term, but "anchor baby" -- that people are coming to this country, illegal immigrants, having babies so that they become American citizens. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 8/12/10, via Media Matters]

Hispanic Republican Group: Term "Is Equivalent To Other Defamatory Terms Such As 'Wetback,' 'Pickaninny' And 'Tar Baby.' " In a press release demanding that Fox News apologize for using the "anchor baby" term in reference to the child of Spanish actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, Somos Republicans -- which bills itself as "the fast growing and largest Hispanic Republican group in the nation" -- stated:

Fox News Latino is being insensitive and their actions are reprehensible. The term "anchor baby" is equivalent to other defamatory terms such as "wetback", "pickaninny" and "tar baby". Media outlets should never use these demeaning terms in connection with precious babies, and it is unfortunate that we have to inform FOX News of this when they are typically viewed as conservative.

Penelope Cruz is admired world-wide, and comparing her unborn child to an inanimate object is demeaning. The Latino community is deeply offended by the increasingly popular usage of these defamatory terms. Our outrage sparked a letter to the National Right to Life praying for their support to not endorse any candidate in the nation that uses these offensive terms. In fact, our group launched a national campaign that will make a concerted effort to curtail the use of this offensive language. [Somos Republicans, 12/10/10]

Rocky Mountain News: Term "considered by many to be derogatory, even racist." In an August 2006 article, the Rocky Mountain News reported:

She was 16 years old and scared, but Maria Guadalupe Valdez made the two-day trek through the desert to come to the U.S.

Twelve years later, the 28-year- old illegal immigrant is caught up in the debate over illegal immigration, and that frightens her, too.

She and her husband live in a tidy two-bedroom mobile home in Greeley with their four U.S.-born children, ages 9, 7, 6 and 1.

Their youngsters -- three boys and a girl -- motivate the couple to work long hours to build a better life for their family.

But these American children also are a symbol of controversy. Opponents of illegal immigration call them "anchor babies" -- a term considered by many to be derogatory, even racist, because it implies that Hispanics are having children as a way to stay in the U.S.

The thinking is that U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants help "anchor" the parents in the country and keep them from being deported. The refrain is that "anchor babies" help their parents tap into a gamut of free or low-cost social services, burdening taxpayers with millions of dollars in medical care and services.

The reality is that having a child does little to help an illegal immigrant avoid deportation, achieve legal status or gain government services for themselves, experts say. [Rocky Mountain News, 8/29/06]

San Diego Union-Tribune, Reno Gazette-Journal: Term is "pejorative." An April 2006 San Diego Union-Tribune article stated that an anti-immigration activist "dismissed teens marching in Los Angeles as 'probably part of the anchor baby-boom of the late 1980s and 1990s,' using a pejorative term for the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants." [San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/2/06]

  • Likewise, an October 2008 Reno Gazette-Journal article reported that "[s]ome opponents of illegal immigration call such children 'anchor babies,' a pejorative term that implies the child will serve as an 'anchor' for his or her illegal immigrant parents, preventing the parents' deportations and acting as a pathway to citizenship for the whole family." [Reno Gazette-Journal, 10/19/08, accessed via Nexis]

Journalist: Term is "loaded language." In an August 2006 blog post titled, "Sinking 'anchor babies,' " Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn wrote that he received complaints for his prior use of the term "anchor babies." Zorn responded:

I defended myself -- the term has appeared regularly in news stories since 1997, usually softened by quotations as in my column, and refers to the practice/hopes of illegal immigrants that if their children are born in the U.S. they will serve as an anchor that will help allow their parents to say here. And Doug Rivlin, spokesman for the National Immigration Forum, a leading immigrants'-rights group, said he does not consider the term particularly offensive.

However, Rivlin said, it's a "politically charged term" originated and favored by those who are opposed to liberalized immigration laws. And a quick check through various sources confirms this.

"They use it to spark resentment against immigrants," Rivlin said of his ideological foes. "They use it to make these children sound non-human."

To me, that's good enough reason to regret having used it and to decide not to use it in the future.

Sound arguments don't need loaded language. [Chicago Tribune, 8/18/06]

Data Show Claim That Pregnant Women Are Systematically Coming To The U.S. To Deliver "Anchor Babies" Is A Myth

Pew Hispanic Center: 91 Percent Of Undocumented Immigrants Who Gave Birth In 2009-2010 Came To U.S. Before 2007. In an study examining the unauthorized immigrant population, the Pew Hispanic Center examined "year-of-arrival patterns for unauthorized immigrant parents of babies born from March 2009 to March 2010, to see how long the parents had been in the United States before their children were born. If year of arrival was available for both parents, the analysis used the most recently arrived parent." The study found that "9% of these unauthorized immigrants who had babies in 2009-2010 had arrived in the U.S. in 2008 or later. An additional 30% arrived from 2004 to 2007, and the remaining 61% arrived in the United States before 2004." [Pew Hispanic Center, 2/1/11]

Pew Analyst: Of Babies Born To Undocumented Immigrants In 2008, "85 Percent Of The Parents Had Been In The Country For More Than A Year." In an article headlined, " 'Birth Tourism' A Tiny Portion Of Immigrant Babies," the Associated Press reported: "While a recent Pew Hispanic Center study shows 8 percent of the 4.3 million babies born in the U.S. in 2008 had at least one illegal parent, a closer examination shows that most children of illegal immigrants are born to parents like Garcia who have made the United States their home for years." The article continued:

Out of 340,000 babies born to illegal immigrants in the United States in 2008, 85 percent of the parents had been in the country for more than a year, and more than half for at least five years, Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer for Pew, told The Associated Press.

And immigration experts say it's extraordinarily rare for immigrants to come to the U.S. just so they can have babies and get citizenship. In most cases, they come for economic reasons and better hospitals, and end up staying and raising families.

Garcia's husband has been deported and she earns a living selling tamales to other immigrants who live in fear of being deported from the slapdash, impoverished colonias that dot the Texas-Mexico border.

"I think that children aren't at fault for having been born here," Garcia said. "My children always have lived here. They've never gone to another country."

Under current immigration law, Garcia and others like her don't get U.S. citizenship even though their children are Americans. [Associated Press, 9/3/10]

PolitiFact: "Having A Baby To Secure Citizenship For Its Parents Is An Extremely Long-Term, And Uncertain, Process." In an article examining Sen. Graham's claim that "People come here to have babies. They come here to drop a child. It's called 'drop and leave," PolitiFact wrote:

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.

However, having a citizen child can produce some short-term benefits, said Marc Rosenblum, a senior policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute. Pregnant women and nursing mothers could be eligible for certain benefits under the Women-Infants-Children (WIC) program, which provides food and nutrition vouchers, and their children could enroll in Medicaid, although the undocumented parents could not. Having a child can also help an undocumented parent qualify for relief from deportation, but only 4,000 unauthorized immigrants can receive such status per year, and the alien has to have been in the U.S. for at least 10 years. That means very long odds, Rosenblum said.

Most of the benefits of citizenship accrue over the much longer term. The child will be able to work here legally once he or she is old enough, said Roberto Suro, a communications and journalism professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in Hispanic issues, and when they're ready for college, they'll qualify for in-state tuition at most public colleges. "It is a hell of a lot of deferred gratification at best," he said. [PolitiFact, 8/6/10]

PolitiFact: Data Show "Undocumented Men Significantly Outnumber Undocumented Women" Of Child-Bearing Age. PolitiFact further reported:

There's something else you don't see, [Roberto] Suro [communications and journalism professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in Hispanic issues] said. If having a baby was a significant driving factor in illegal immigration, you would expect to see a higher percentage of women of child-bearing age in the U.S. illegally compared to men of the same age. In fact, just the opposite is the case. Numbers from the Pew Hispanic Center show that in four separate age ranges between 20 and 40, undocumented men significantly outnumber undocumented women. [PolitiFact, 8/6/10]

CIS Has Issued Dubious Study On "Birth Tourism" Hinting At "National Security Problem" Of Birthright Citizenship

CIS Report Speculates That Children Born To Women Admitted To U.S. As Visitors Could Grow Up To Be Terrorists. Though CIS stated in the June Times article that there is "no way of knowing" how many women are using the New York centers for "so-called maternity tourism," a March CIS study dubiously estimated that "nearly 200,000 children are born here annually to foreign women admitted as visitors." The report also made the discredited claim that there is "a national security dimension to the issue," because such children could grow up to become terrorists. [Center for Immigration Studies, March 2011, Media Matters, 3/22/11]

Posted In
Immigration, Immigration Myths
The New York Times
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