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04Apr2014

Dropping the Anchor

  • By Adv. Dotan Cohen
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United States immigration policy is riddled with controversy. Almost everyone agrees that the immigration system needs to be fixed, but almost no one agrees on the method to fix it. That being said, it comes as a quite a surprise that there has been very little discussion regarding the “Anchor Baby,” a term that has become so popular that it was recently added as a new word in the latest edition of the New American Heritage Dictionary. For those that are unfamiliar with the term, please see how the dictionary defines the term:

 

anchor baby n. A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family.

 

In more simple (and direct) words, this politically-loaded term is used to describe the baby who is born in the United States for the purpose of aiding the parents’ (illegal) immigration status. It is hard to know how many “Anchor Babies” are in the United States, but one can hardly deny that it must be a very large number if the dictionary publishers decided to officially define the term.

 

And while there are many who direct their criticism towards the parents of anchor babies, maybe the more logical place to aim their frustration is toward the American Government. After all, parents of anchor babies are not breaking the law by giving birth in the US, nor should it be a violation of the law. However, maybe it should be considered if the baby of an illegal immigrant should be granted US citizen status simply because he or she was physically born in the United States. By having a law which grants automatic citizenship to those who are physically born in the US (regardless of immigration status), non-US citizens are practically invited to take a flight to the US, give birth to their child, obtain US citizenship, and take a flight home. Even if the parent is legally visiting the United States on a tourist visa, does a baby who is born during a mother’s four-month legal tourist visit in the United States deserve US citizenship?

 

This is probably not what our legislators intended when they wrote the rules of US citizenship many years ago, but, then again, they never could have predicted how easily people would internationally travel in the future. Instead, they probably assumed that everyone born in the US would be strongly connected to the country, as people did not pleasure travel to the United States 250 years ago. If someone came to the US in the 1800s, it was because they came to start a new life, not to visit Disney World. Additionally, in previous centuries, simply arriving to the United States was a significant accomplishment in itself, as it was often an arduous and potentially fatal journey.

 

Considering the advances in international travel, the rule regarding US citizenship needs to be changed to reflect the reality of the 21st century. One idea is that babies born on United States soil will not be granted US citizenship unless one of the following requirements are met: (1) At least one of the registered parents is a US Citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident; or (2) The registered parent(s) have been continuously and legally living in the US for at least one year under any visa status except a B1/B2 visitor visa.

 

Under the current immigration system, there are intending immigrants who have Green Card applications pending for more than a decade, sometimes almost two decades. It simply does not make sense that a baby can essentially jump to the front of the line and obtain US Citizenship (which comes with more rights than a Green Card) only by having the mother give birth in the US instead of her home country. If a new rule is implemented in the same mold as described above, not only will parents stop using the birth of their child as an immigration tool, but maybe we will no longer need to define the term “anchor baby” in our dictionaries.

 

All said and explained in this article does not constitute a legal opinion and does not replace legal advice. Responsibility for using the wordings and opinions conveyed in this article relies solely and entirely on the reader.

This article was written by Dotan Cohen Law Offices, working in the field of immigration law in the United States, Canada, Australia and England.

 

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