Anchor baby

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Making the melting pot
Immigrants welcome, racists not

Anchor baby is a derogatory slur used to describe the United States-born children of illegal immigrants.

Fourteenth amendment[edit]

The Citizenship Clause of the 14th amendment to the US Constitution states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." US federal law has interpreted this as jus soli: to allow anyone born in the US to have citizenship through birth. (Shhh… don't tell the birthers!) The US Supreme Court upheld this principle in United States v. Wong Kim Ark.[1] Senator Jacob Howard (Republican of Michigan) stated on the Senate floor during debate that the clause "will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons."[2][3]


In the 1980s, Vietnamese refugees were known as "boat people", and their children were nicknamed "anchor children", which originated from a Los Angeles Times Magazine article in 1987.[4]

A Providence Journal article in 1997 quoted Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, calling US-born children of illegal aliens "anchor babies".[5]

However, in the mid-2000s, as illegal immigration became a hot-button political issue, this term became a rallying call for stronger border security, as in this 2006 Chicago Tribune column by Eric Zorn:

…[Elvira] Arellano's not helping things. She's not a particularly good cause célèbre, as these things go. She has twice entered the country illegally, has been convicted of carrying a false Social Security card, speaks very poor English for someone who has been in this country nine years and she plays her so-called "anchor baby," a 7-year-old son who is a U.S. citizen because he was born here, as her trump card.
—Eric Zorn[6]

In the Double-Tongued Dictionary, editor Grant Barrett commented that the term "anchor baby" "is used for any immigrant" because: "Those who use this term tend to be opposed to all immigration and immigrants, not illegal immigration, especially those who use their immigration stance as a mask for racism and xenophobia."[7]

Explain these people then, Republicans[edit]

If it's such a great idea to amend the Constitution so that not every child born in the US is automatically a citizen, then remember that these Republican and conservative figures are anchor babies:

  • Michelle Malkin, pundit/blogger/commentator: parents were immigrants from the Philippines[8]
  • Susana Martinez, former governor of New Mexico (2011-2019): Martinez admitted in September 2011 that her grandparents were illegal immigrants.[9] If conservatives had had their way during the 20th century, Martinez would be an "anchor grandbaby" and lack US citizenship despite being born in the US.
  • Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts (2003-2007) and presidential candidate in 2008 and 2012: father George W. Romney was born in Mexico to Mormon parents whose parents escaped the US to practice polygamy in Mexico. However, George's parents were monogamous and US citizens, and when George was born, the law made him a US but not Mexican citizen by birth. The Romney family migrated to Texas when George was five.[10] The Romneys were on government assistance for a few months before moving to California, and George's father was a carpenter and farmer.[11] Reaction from the conservatives complaining about those other smelly Mexicans taking jobs from Americans and welfare from US citizens:
Two tumbleweeds rolling across the screen, from left to right.
  • Michael Savage, talk radio host: his parents were immigrants from Russia, but Michael has made a career from screaming and howling about illegal and Third World immigration in the name of "borders, language, culture".
  • Marco Rubio, U.S. senator: his parents were immigrants from Cuba, and did not naturalize as citizens until Rubio was five years old. Rubio has recently supported restricting birthright citizenship, believing it "wasn't the intention of the framers".

See also[edit]


  1. United States v. Wong Kim Ark. Cornell Law School.
  2. Justin Berrier (August 13, 2010). "Fox promotes false claim that 14th Amendment was not meant to apply to children of immigrants". Media Matters for America.
  3. "Reconstruction". The Congressional Globe: May 30, 1866, p. 2890.
  4. "A Profile of a Lost Generation", Los Angeles Times Magazine, Dec. 13, 1987.
  5. Rowland, Christopher, "Welfare official objects to new immigration law". Providence Journal: January 7, 1997. "Dan Stein, executive director of the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform… contends undocumented aliens should not be allowed to benefit because they have children born in this country. Turning a blind eye to such issues, Stein asserted, encourages immigrant families to conceive 'anchor babies' so they can remain in this country and collect benefits."
  6. Eric Zorn, "Deportation standoff not helping cause", Chicago Tribune, Aug. 17, 2006.
  7. Double Tongued Dictionary: Anchor Baby. Barrett wrote the second comment.
  8. C-SPAN Booknotes interview from 2002
  9. N.M. governor says grandparents were illegal immigrants (Reuters, Sept. 9, 2011)
  10. Romney's Mexican Cousins
  11. See the Wikipedia article on George W. Romney's Early life and background.