Anchor Babies

8/25/15 The New American: “Jeb Bush: Asians Abuse “Noble Concept” of Birthright Citizenship”
by Warren Mass
Former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush was asked at a McAllen, Texas, news conference Monday if he thought his use of the term  “anchor baby” might harm him among Hispanic voters. Perhaps concerned that it could, he said when he used the term, he meant to apply it mostly to Asians:

What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there is organized efforts — and frankly it’s more related to Asian people — coming into our country, having children in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship.

Bush’s defensive posture was likely a response to two videos released by the Hillary Clinton campaign last week and on Monday that sought to link Bush’s immigration plan with Trump’s — specifically seizing on Bush’s use of the term “anchor babies.”

During the McAllen conference, Bush addressed the Clinton charges head on:

My background, my life, the fact that I’m immersed in the immigrant experience — this is ludicrous for the Clinton campaign and others to suggest that somehow I’m using [anchor babies as] a derogatory term. And by the way, I think we need to take a step back and chill out a little bit as it relates to the political correctness, that somehow you have to be scolded every time you say something.

After defending himself against Clinton’s charges, Bush went on the offensive against Trump:

Mr. Trump’s plans are not grounded in conservative principles. The simple fact is that his proposal is unrealistic. It will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It will violate people’s civil liberties. It will create friction with our third-largest trading partner that is not necessary.

Despite the Clinton campaign’s assertions, Bush and Trump have expressed contrasting views on immigration. Trump’s plan specifically calls for “ending birthright citizenship for the children born in the United States of parents who are here illegally.” As we have noted, Bush does not object to birthright citizenship in principle, and described it as “a noble concept.” Unlike many conservatives and constitutionalists — he does not dispute the loose interpretation of the 14th Amendment that applies a right granted to freed slaves whose ancestors lived in the United States for generations to aliens who come into the United States for the primary purpose of giving birth here.

Where Bush apparently draws the line, however, is the practice that has become common among Asian women called “maternity tourism.” AFP reported that last March, U.S. authorities raided dozens of locations in Los Angeles suspected of offering “maternity tourism” services for pregnant Chinese women who want to give birth in the United States in order to secure U.S. citizenship for their children.

The report cited a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that some Chinese women have paid more than $50,000 for such services.

A Chinese woman able to afford $50,000 to travel to the United States to give birth is obviously in a different category from an impoverished Mexican woman, and is almost certainly motivated by different reasons. While those from south of the border most likely come here illegally to escape poverty and seek a better life in America, the Chinese “maternity tourism” client is far from poor. Furthermore, not all of them are here illegally, and many possess valid tourist visas. This suggests that unlike women from Mexico or Guatemala, who intend to use their “anchor baby” as a steppingstone to gain immediate citizenship for themselves, the Chinese women having babies in America may be thinking more long-term, preparing their children for eventual permanent migration to the United States.

It is impossible for a citizen of China to attain the level of affluence required for “maternity tourism” unless they are well connected with the communist government. This suggests several possible explanations, including whether the Chinese government is grooming these new U.S. citizens as future overseas business managers who will not require the usual visas to work in the United States — or even for future espionage activities.

Whatever motivations the Chinese “maternity tourists” and their handlers in the Chinese government might have, Bush has spoken out against the practice. However, this still places him very far away from several other GOP candidates — including Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham — who would end birthright citizenship entirely.

8/28/2015 Huffington Post: “Asian Anchor Babies? Some Numbers and Perspective”
by Karthick Ramakrishnan
Professor of public policy, expert on immigration, race & politics, Latinos and Asian Americans
Originally posted at AAPI Data

As others have noted, the phenomenon of birth tourism is distinct from most conventional understandings of the offensive term “anchor baby,” which tends to imply that people use birthright citizenship from their children to avoid deportation or eventually gain U.S. citizenship for themselves.

There has been a fair amount of sensationalist reporting on birth tourism by Chinese immigrants, with little understanding of the number of estimated “birth tourists,” and how they compare to the overall number of Chinese immigrants or visitors to the United States.  Below, we provide some numbers in perspective.

Estimates of birth tourists are inherently difficult to come by, because hospitals do not inquire on the visa status of mothers, and tracking outmigration from the United States by visa category is not possible.  Still, the conservative Center for Immigration Studies estimates the total number of birth tourists from around the world to be about 36,000 per year, while other sources indicate the annual number of Chinese birth tourists to be around 20,000.

To put those numbers into perspective, Chinese birth tourists account for about 1% of all Chinese tourists visiting the United States, who numbered around 2.2 million in 2014. Chinese tourism is also a major part of total international tourism spending in the United States, accounting for $24 billion in tourism spending, according to the Department of Commerce, and second only to Canadian tourists who spent around $27 billion.

The federal government has already cracked down significantly on birth tourism establishments, with evidence suggesting that the overall numbers of birth tourists from China may be in decline.  Targeting individuals who may be intending to engage in birth tourism is not only likely to invoke concerns about racial profiling and violations of privacy, it also puts at risk a robust and growing trend in Chinese tourism to the United States, which is expected to reach $81 billion in spending by 2021.


8/28/15 The Week: “Why Jeb Bush should pledge to roll out the welcome mat for Asian birth tourists”
by Shikha Dalmia

“Anchor babies” are a myth invented by restrictionists to try and scrap America’s constitutionally guaranteed right to birthright citizenship. The term used to refer to pregnant Latino women who supposedly deliberately and illegally came to America to give birth to American children who would become mom and dad’s green card sponsors. But this scheme can involve wait times of up to 31 years (kids can’t sponsor before age 21, and parents sometimes have to wait 10 years outside America before qualifying). Hence, restrictionists couldn’t find many examples to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria. So now they have dubbed every one of the 300,000 children born to undocumented parents annually as anchor babies whose real purpose is to prevent their unauthorized parents from being deported.

This argument is ridiculous. Vanishingly few undocumented immigrants have children specifically to escape deportation. They have children because they want to — for any number of non-cynical reasons. And yes, this can sometimes help them escape deportation. But don’t conflate that consequence of birth with the motives for pregnancy.

The practical argument against pro-life politics, debunked Anchor babies don’t exist in any meaningful sense. Birth tourism, however, does. And that’s a good thing.

No super-reliable figures are available, but the number commonly bandied about puts birth tourist babies at a mere 35,000 annually. Unlike the poor, unauthorized Latino parents of mythical “anchor babies,” birth tourism involves relatively well-off couples, the vast majority from China, who come to America when it comes time to give birth so their kid will score U.S. citizenship.

Another benefit for these Chinese couples: Beijing’s autocrats don’t count children born with other nationalities against a couple’s one-child quota. No doubt, a U.S. passport for their newborn is a huge attraction. But America is not the only destination for couples trying to dodge China’s draconian birth control policies. Mainland Chinese couples also flock to Hong Kong (all of which the pro-life, pro-family conservative editors of National Review Online should understand and applaud rather than running confused pieces like this conflating “anchor babies” and birth tourists to promote their anti-birthright citizenship crusade).

Immigration restrictionists love to deride “anchor baby” parents for being in the United States illegally. But that’s not true with birth tourists. They come here legally. Even a recent Rolling Stone “expose” of Los Angeles-based maternity agencies acknowledged: “Birth tourists, arriving on legal visas, aren’t breaking any laws while in the country.” Meanwhile, a May Bloomberg Businessweek story about these agencies — that for a fee of up to $50,000 help a couple obtain U.S. visas, put them up in hotels during their long stay in America, arrange doctors and hospitals and then passports for their infant — found that most of them go out of their way to coach their clients in “cheng shi qian” (honest visa applications). This is not to say that no one lies, but it is far from standard practice — which is why a Department of Homeland Security raid on maternity hotels earlier this year didn’t seem to come up with many instances of visa fraud, despite a long undercover investigation.

Restrictionists constantly accuse “anchor baby” parents of mooching off American taxpayers by using emergency services for child delivery and collecting welfare through their American child. (Never mind that unauthorized parent-headed households receive far less welfare than native ones of similar income, and are far less prone to welfare dependency.) But none of that applies to birth tourists, who, with few exceptions, pay for the entire cost of delivery out of pocket. In fact, the agency that formed the cornerstone of the Bloomberg story went out of its way to ensure that its clients don’t use public money, and keep copious documentation to prove that.

More to the point, birth tourist babies go home to be raised during their most expensive phase — only to possibly return to America after their 18th birthday, during their most productive phase. In effect, birth tourism allows America to outsource the raising of its citizens, resulting in enormous savings, given that it costs a whopping $300,000 to raise a child in a middle-income family in America today.

Every adult immigrant, even poor Latinos, constitute a windfall for America, given that America reaps the dividends of another society’s investment in them. (Indeed, immigration is arguably a far cheaper way than having children for a society to maintain its population level.) But birth tourist babies are a special boon because they are the product of super-ambitious parents who are obviously sparing no expense or effort to build their child’s full potential and give him/her options.

This is why it is all the more unfortunate that Jeb Bush put birth tourists in the crosshairs of his party’s ugly war on immigration. He has said in the past that Latinos who come to America illegally to give their children a better life are engaging in an “act of love.” This is equally true for Asian birth tourists.


8/25/15 vox.com: “Jeb Bush, “anchor babies,” and America’s deep legacy of anti–Asian American racism”
by Dara Lind
When Jeb Bush tried to justify his use of the term “anchor baby” by saying it referred to “Asians,” it got him heavily mocked. The mockery was only partly justified. Some people mocked Bush because they didn’t understand what he was actually saying — that the “real” anchor babies are children born in the US as part of the “birth tourism” industry, which mostly caters to China. Others mocked him because he wasn’t doing himself any favors by taking a term many people consider offensive on its own and applying it to a second group of people.

“Anchor baby” doesn’t actually have the same connotations when it’s transferred from Latinos to Asians, because the underlying stereotypes about each group are different. Unfortunately for Bush, however, talking about birth tourism and “anchor babies” plays into some long-established and very painful stereotypes about the inherent foreignness of Asian Americans.

The United States has often excluded Asians

When Donald Trump and others talk about “anchor babies,” they’re talking about Latinos — tying into a cluster of stereotypes that conflate Latinos, Mexicans, immigrants, and unauthorized immigrants, and that convince many of the anxious white Americans who make up Trump’s base that their culture is under threat from “illegals.” Bush claims he’s trying to back away from that argument, while still using a term that invokes it.

That cluster of stereotypes isn’t a problem for Asians and Asian Americans in the same way it is for Latinos. But by arguing that “anchor baby” ought to refer to Asians, Bush ended up backing into a different cluster of stereotypes: that Asian Americans are “foreign” and more closely tied to their “home countries” than they are to the United States.

One of the odd legacies of American immigration history is that while nativist fears have centered on immigrants from all sorts of regions — Ireland, Eastern Europe, the Middle East — Asian immigrants are the only ones the United States has ever told they can never become Americans. The first immigration restrictions in US history were the Asian Exclusion Acts of the late 1800s (inspired, in part, by a wave of racial violence against Asian immigrants), which prohibited all immigration from China — the only region from which immigration has been explicitly banned, rather than just limited.

The reason we have birthright citizenship for everyone born on US soil to begin with is because of the Supreme Court case United States v. Wong Kim Ark, in which an American-born son of Chinese immigrants tried to return to the US after a trip and was told he’d never been an American citizen after all. Wong won his case, which would have greatly upset members of Congress who argued against birthright citizenship back when the 14th Amendment was being debated in 1866 — exactly because (in the words of Sen. Edgar Cowen) California would be “overrun by a flood of immigration of the Mongol race.”

And, of course, in the 1940s, fear of an Asian-American “fifth column” in World War II was so acute that thousands of Japanese Americans, many of whom had been born in the US and had never seen Japan, were placed in internment camps.

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