Musings of Captain Justice a/k/a Gil Jones

Anchor babies: a humane, fair and practical solution

This baby is one month old.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Firstly, I do not here argue the point of whether the 14th Amendment really does or does not confer citizenship on a baby born on American soil to non-citizens. Another day perhaps.

Secondly, I appreciate the fact that America is populated by immigrants (as with my own ancestors, i.e. John Jones from Wales) and appreciate those who continue to come here for good reasons and do good work when they are here. I understand perfectly well why a couple would want to get here and have their baby here in order to confer citizenship. But it is unfair to those who immigrate legally, and to U.S. citizens, to stop there. What I propose is a way to confer citizenship on that baby in a more rational way and to encourage the parents to become citizens.

Citizenship for all

  1. Make clear, changing the law if needed, that simply being born in the U.S. does not confer automatic citizenship.
  2. Allow the baby, and their parents, to remain in the U.S. provided that they otherwise qualify, register their presence and start their path to citizenship.1
  3. When both parents have become naturalized citizens, then the child automatically becomes a citizen.

A worthy result for anchor babies

Now we have a family of citizens who have “played the game” fairly. While a good result, it nevertheless belies the fact that the parents came here illegally in the first instance thereby jumping the line of those who started the immigration process properly. The only policy rationale for this approach to anchor babies is to have a chance to have new productive citizens instead of deporting the whole family or have them living an underground, and victimized, existence.

Is there real efficacy to dealing with the anchor babies ‘problem’ in this manner? If you read the excellent article2 by Raymond Yung Lin, American Exceptionalism and Why I’m Proud to Be an ‘Anchor Baby’, you will see an excellent example of this.  In fact, it was this article that coalesced my rambling thoughts on the subject and prompted me to write this piece. From his article we see the beginnings

When my father died in 2006, I was shocked to learn that my parents came to the U.S. in the mid-1950s and intentionally overstayed their tourist visa with hopes of one day becoming American citizens. My father found a job, and less than a year later I came into the world. My parents struggled to make a new life in America, but they worked hard, raised a family, and became legal permanent residents and naturalized citizens as soon as they could.

and from his conclusion regarding the result of virtuous (albeit initially illegal) immigration:

This is why I’m proud to be an “anchor baby.” I’m proud to have a family that taught me the true virtues of American exceptionalism—that we as a people are exceptional, not because we are born to be exceptional, but because we are born to parents who were willing to risk everything for the opportunity to become Americans and that we must make the most of this precious gift from our parents.

He had exceptional parents and one “[trait they did not] share [with the type of immigrants many take exception to] is the concept of privilege, the idea that an “anchor baby” creates an entitlement to a better life without working for it.” Kudos to them.

This treatment of immigrants with ‘anchor babies’ can apply both to those entering illegally and those who first arrive under the legal processes. Full integration is not only encouraged but will usually be the inevitable result, as was the case with Mr. Yung Lin and his family.

  1. This step would be subject to appropriate rules regarding employment, no felony record, etc
  2. Yung Lin, R. (2015, September 11). American Exceptionalism and Why I’m Proud to Be an ‘Anchor Baby’ – WSJ. Retrieved from

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