CA Epicenter of National ‘Anchor Baby’ Debate

Anchor BabyRepublican presidential candidates were drawn deeper into the immigration controversies centered on California, as Donald Trump’s leading opponents sought a way to blunt his apparent advantage among voters with his tough talk on birthright citizenship and deportation.

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The numbers game

Clarifying his stance, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski recently took to CNN to criticize the current population of so-called anchor babies.

“If you think of the term ‘anchor baby,’ which is those individuals coming to our country and having their children so their children can be U.S. citizens,” he said. “There’s 400,000 of those taking place on a yearly basis. To put this in perspective, that’s equivalent of the population of Tulsa, Okla.”

Those numbers were immediately disputed, but not entirely discounted. According to Politfact, the figure cited by Lewandowski was “slightly exaggerated,” taking into account dipping rates of illegal immigration in recent years, and the difficulty involved in proving intent among unlawful immigrant mothers giving birth on U.S. soil.

So-called birth tourists, who use travel visas with the secret intent to have a baby delivered in the U.S., contribute to a much smaller fraction of ‘anchor babies,’ Politifact added — “around 8,600, or 0.2 percent of all births, in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

A growing problem

Nevertheless, the anchor baby story has gained steam this summer, reaching a broader audience than GOP primary voters. In a significant new report at Rolling Stone, Benjamin Carlson investigated Rowland Heights, a Los Angeles-area community with a reputation as “the center of Chinese birth tourism in southern California, if not the whole United States.” 

Several years ago, Carlson noted, “the county of Los Angeles opened an investigation into maternity hotels after receiving a deluge of public complaints,” although in the end “no new ordinance targeting maternity hotels was passed in the area. The task force decided that ‘complaints beyond the scope of local zoning powers’ would be referred to state and federal agencies.” According to estimates cited by Carlson, California has become the epicenter for many of the 10,000-60,000 Chinese tourist births the U.S. hosts per year. 

Campaign controversy

With the anchor baby story gaining national traction, several of Trump’s leading competitors for the Republican nomination appeared to size up the issue as a way to toughen up on immigration without undermining their credibility with pro-immigration constituents. Asked by Bill O’Reilly whether “the anchor baby law” is “destructive to the country,” Marco Rubiocalled the issue a “legitimate” one, as RealClearPolitics recounted. “I of course have read about how that happens in California, wealthy Chinese people are hedging their bets, in case something goes wrong in China they can come here,” he explained. 

Jeb Bush, meanwhile, allowed the term — seen by many Democrats and others as at least implicitly derogatory — to escape his lips in an interview. “Given Bush’s close connections to the Latino community — his wife is from Mexico, he speaks fluent Spanish, he’s written a book on immigration and he lives in the Miami area — it was surprising to hear Bush use the phrase,” CNN suggested. “But he defended his word choice, telling reporters the following day that he didn’t regret it.”

“‘What I said is that it’s commonly referred to that. I didn’t use it as my own language,’ he said. ‘You want to get to the policy for a second? I think that people born in this country ought to be American citizens.’”

Later, Bush attempted to clarify that his concern was closer to Rubio’s than Trump’s. “Frankly it’s more Asian people,” he suggested, urging critics to “chill out” about his phrasing, according to NBC News.

Choosing agendas

Conservatives have grappled over whether to frame birthright citizenship primarily as a question of immigrants’ potential upward mobility or the potential downward mobility they often believe government dependency fosters. “Inflation-adjusted figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected that a child born in 2013 would cost his parents $304,480 from birth to his eighteenth birthday,” as National Review’s Ian Tuttle noted. “Given that illegal-alien households are normally low-income households (three out of five illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children live at or near the poverty line), one would expect that a significant portion of that cost will fall on the government.”

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  1. Michael McDermott says

    According to estimates cited by Carlson, California has become the epicenter for many of the 10,000-60,000 Chinese tourist births the U.S. hosts per year…”

    So how is it that Children born to the families of Diplomats from foreign nations who are born in America, are Not Also ‘Birthright’ designated under the 14th Amendment?

    BTW – the 14th Amendment was passed to destroy vestiges of Slavery via denying citizenship to Slaves born in America; in the days of long ocean voyages to reach the land, as opposed to short flights to the pregnancy tourism motel.

  2. I can think of 2 ways to deal with the problem. First pass a law saying if you come here with the intent of having a baby that baby will not get citizenship. Don’t allow anyone to come in if they are over 8 months pregnant and do not let them stay into the 9th month. Second option treat them the way Canada does. The child will be a citizen but the whole family including the child has to go home. When the child becomes an adult then the child and only the child can return.

    • John, it seems your first method is not actually your preference, but rather the second method. This is because the citizenship criteria for qualifying based on intent, is subjective and requires proving what someone intended (legally cumbersome). However, citizenship eligibility based on situation (the offspring of undocumented foriegn nationals not under jurisdiction of U.S. law, as opposed to offspring of at least one U.S. citizen or naturalized citizen) is quite objective and spin-free as I see it.
      I do support the idea of banning automatic family re-unification though. Family re-unification policy tends to tempt immigration law violation.

      • The problem with the first one is like you mentioned proving the intent but it would also most likely not be constitutional.

        • sweetsuzee says

          I cannot understand how the courts could have been so wrong with this one. Obviously Congress needs to write a clarification. The constitution of the United States does not grant citizenship at birth to just anyone who happens to be born within American borders. It is the allegiance (complete jurisdiction) of the child’s birth parents at the time of birth that determines the child’s citizenship–not geographical location. If the United States does not have complete jurisdiction, for example, to compel a child’s parents to Jury Duty – then the U.S. does not have the total, complete jurisdiction demanded by the Fourteenth Amendment to make their child a citizen of the United States by birth. How could it possibly be any other way? If that was not the original intent, which, by the way, their writings at the time clearly state it was, the portion of
          “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” would have been omitted as it would not be necessary. What our courts have done is made that phrase meaningless.

  3. Children of illegals who are born on US soil are NOT automatically citizens. The 14th Amendment does not guarantee them citizenship. That is the leftist lie of citizenship. Only children whose parents are legal immigrants and owe no allegiance to any other foreign country or government and are born in America are guaranteed citizenship under the 14th Amendment. Illegals are NOT legal immigrants, and owe their allegiances to foreign governments therefore their US born children are illegals also. That is what the 14th Amendment actually says.

  4. Michael McDermott says

    I view the terms ‘Illegal Alien’ (those who Chose to break the immigration laws and Jump the Line) in a different way than the term ‘Illegitimate Children’ (born out of wedlock) – and ‘Children of Immigrants’.

    In the later cases the stigma placed on an Innocent Child (No Child is Illegitimate, regardless of how disreputable their parents – as even the Constitution says crimes like Treason work no ‘Corruption of the Blood’ (children are not guilty of their parents wrongdoing).

    My term is CFN – Citizen of Foreign Nations. As with the children of Diplomats born in the USA, these children already have the Same Nationality as their Parents, and the USA discourages ‘dual citizenship’ …
    – although it seems to have made an exception in the case of Barry ‘on the down low’ Soetoro / Marshall Davis / ObamAcorn… Whoever the guy really is and regardless of the many secrets contained in his carefully sealed records – at least those outside his school days as Barry Soetoro when growing up in Jakarta Indonesia.

  5. “Progressives” are beginning to worry about those of us who want to see the 14th repealed. That along with the 15th and 17th have empowered them to constantly undermine the Republic for the sake of power and money.

    I have been encouraging Trump to stump (nice ring!) California. I have Hispanic friends, some descended from Cristero’s who fought the Mexican holocaust in the 1930’s. They appreciate this country as much as any Mayflower descendant. He should first sit down with the new rich Silicon Valley types who have been misled by Bill Gates, et al into socialistic schemes that are doing more harm than good – Can you spell Common Core? Federal control of health, education and welfare are fields where the Feds have no business or competence.

  6. The Media can paint it any way they want.. BUT THE FACT REMAINS: IT MUST STOP. NOW.. TODAY. If the parents aren’t citizens, then neither are the kids.

  7. Lets be honest with ourselves for once. This country is unable to afford
    and allow immigrants to invade illegally nor enter legally into this country.
    We are broke and drowning in red ink with deadly debt. No longer can we be the bastion of liberty to all the world’s victims. The country can’t
    even afford to be the bastion of liberty to it’s own victims of it’s creation!
    Congress has the power to put a moratorium on immigration with the powers of the purse. We are no longer able to feed, clothe, house and educate these people. We don’t get the best of the best, they live very
    well in their own countries and prefer to stay. We get in multitudes, the
    worst of the worst (criminals) countries are glad to get rid of, poorest of
    the poor (uneducated) again, countries are glad to get rid of. All are liabilities we cannot afford any longer. People also need to realize that
    terrorist are coming here with legal documentation too. It’s time to put the brakes on all of it! AMERICA IS FULL!

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