Anchor Baby Myth Part 2



Have you read Anchor Baby Myth Part 1?  Click here  [otw_shortcode_button href=”” size=”medium” icon_position=”left” shape=”square”]Anchor Baby Myth Part 1[/otw_shortcode_button]

The anchor baby myth states that women without legal papers to live in the United States get pregnant in order to… and this is where it gets vague. Stay here? Get a green card? Become citizens? Well, giving birth to a child on US soil does not grant you any of those privileges.

Our immigration system is woefully broken. The laws and procedures are so complex, that unless you are immersed in the system, you really have no idea how things work. And those who perpetuate the “anchor baby” myth certainly have no idea how things work.

You see, here is the thing. Back in 1996, the Immigration Reform Act included something known as the 3 year/10 year bars. It works like this. If someone has been in “out of status” for more than 6 months, they are barred from re-entering the United States for 3 years. If someone is “out of status’ for more than 12 months, they are barred from re-entering the country for 10 years. Someone might be out of status because they overstayed a visa, or because they entered the country without inspection.  Are your eyes blearing over?  I know this is boring.  But please just stick it out.

Here is the rub.  It doesn’t matter if you marry a US citizen. Someone whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower. If you have been out of status, you are subject to the bar. And when your US citizen spouse petitions for you, you have to go back to do the consular paperwork in your country of origin. And then the bar goes into effect. You have to leave the country, and you can’t come back for 10 years.

Really. This is the law.

Giving birth to a child in the US grants US citizenship to that child. However, it gives you NO additional rights or privileges. Yeah, when the kid reaches age 21, the kid can petition the parent. But the parent is then subject to the 10 year bar.  Just like with a US citizen spouse.

So let’s walk through a scenario. The year is 2016. Maria is 26 years old. Her parents brought her to NJ from Ecuador when she was two years old. They are undocumented. Maria is undocumented. Maria just had a baby she named Juan. Baby Juan is a US citizen. But Maria is still undocumented. Under the current law, when baby reaches his 21st birthday, he can petition his mother Maria, so that she can get a green card. That will be in the year 2037. But unless the laws change, Maria needs to go to the US Consulate in Ecuador for consular processing. Once she leaves the US, the ten year bar goes into effect. Maria can return to the US with a green card in the year 2047. And she will be eligible to apply for US citizenship in the year 2052, when she is 62 years old.

Do we really think that 26 year old Maria is having a baby in order to be eligible for US citizenship when she is 62 years old?   With the caveat that she is going to have to spend 10 years outside of the US? And in Maria’s situation, she would have to go to a country that she does not even know.

Of course, Maria could be detained or deported at any time during her son’s childhood.  Maybe her son would be shipped overseas too.  Or maybe he would stay here.  With friends.  Or in foster care.  Have you read this moving article  by Orange is the New Black star Diane Guerrero? She came home from school one day when she was 14 years old. Dinner had been started, but no one was home. Her parents, who were undocumented, were taken into custody, and later deported to their native Colombia. She was on her own. At 14 years old, she was on her own. Friends took her in. No government official checked in on her. She was on her own.

Her older brother was deported too. He was the father of an infant. The baby’s mom became a single mother.

This is our immigration system. This is how it works.

So tell me again about anchor babies?


Congress has flat out refused to take any action on immigration reform. President Obama signed a few Executive Orders that provided temporary protection for a percentage of immigrant families. In fact, one of the orders, known as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parent Accountability), is coming up soon in front of the Supreme Court. DAPA would have granted some limited relief to Maria. Because she had been in the country for many years, and because she had never broken any laws, Maria would have been eligible for a status that would have prevented her deportation, and given her temporary work papers. Not a green card. Not citizenship. She wouldn’t be able to vote. Or go on welfare. Or do any of those things that right-wing know-nothings seem to think that undocumented immigrants do.

DAPA and the extension of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) are about to go before the Supreme Court, not because these Executive Orders exceed the norms of Executive Orders issued by previous presidents. Yeah.  They were challenged on multiple levels, with multiple lawsuits, including one by infamous Arizona Sherriff Arpaio.  But most of those challenges were thrown out.  The one challenge that stuck was a Texas lawsuit that really focuses on a technicality that has to do with the amount of comment time they were posted in the Federal Register.

Brace yourselves.  When the Supreme Court ruling comes out, it is going to get loud, and it is going to get ugly.  And you will hear a lot more myths.  And some outright lies.  Most of these myths and lies will enter the national consciousness via soundbites.  “Never has a President exceeded his authority like this…” and “illegal is illegal.”

As you listen to these words, think about the anchor baby myth.


Photo by Bruce Armstrong