They call them "anchor babies."
Not "God's children," you understand. There'll be no celebrating these infants as the joyful proof that each was "a baby, not a choice." These precious little faces will not be smiling from a right-to-life billboard any time soon.
No, these are bad babies, the ones born in America to undocumented immigrants. You may remember how Lou Dobbs, before he left CNN last year, used to call them "anchor babies" as a way to promote his dastardly version of America.
In Dobbs' world, hundreds of thousands of immigrant mothers, heavy with child, were navigating rivers and deserts, outwitting U.S. agents and dodging gun-wielding vigilantes so they could heave themselves upon America's shores and head for the nearest emergency room. Just in the nick of time, they'd deliver babies who would take their first breaths as Americans — and later make their parents citizens, too.
Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce — chief sponsor of his state's controversial new immigration law, which recently was gutted by a federal judge — loves the "anchor child" theory. Makes misogyny so much more palatable.
"They use it as a wedge," Pearce told Time magazine. "This is an orchestrated effort by them to come here and have children to gain access to the great welfare state we've created."
Or, as California anti-immigration activist Barbara Coe told the Los Angeles Times, "it's invasion by birth canal."
A Google search for "anchor babies" produces about 331,000 links. Scroll through them and you'll notice the epithet is increasingly free of quotation marks, which suggests the effort to dehumanize the smallest of humans is catching on.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he was thinking of introducing a constitutional amendment that would change the law that grants citizenship to immigrants' children born in America. He had such an interesting way of putting it, too:
"People come here to have babies," he said. "They come here to drop a child. It's called 'drop and leave.' To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child's automatically an American citizen. That shouldn't be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons."
I have lived for more than a half-century, and I have yet to meet a mother anywhere in the world who would describe the excruciating miracle of birth as "dropping" a baby. But let's face it: You can't go after a baby unless you take down the mother, too. Feels so American, in that far-righty kind of way.
There are numerous factual responses to this latest round of Hate the Immigrant.
Many studies show that the number of immigrants' children conceived to game the system is mighty small and that most parents cross the border for jobs and to reunite with families.
The Pew Hispanic Center reports that Mexican emigration to America has declined steadily — from 605,000 in 2000 to 175,000 in 2008. To further shake the baby's rattle, Pew used 2008 Census Bureau data to estimate that undocumented immigrants are only 4 percent of our country's population and just 5.4 percent of our work force. Immigrants' children who were born in America make up a whopping 6.8 percent of elementary and secondary schools.
We also should review the pesky rules for immigrant parents' citizenship. Every immigrant's American child must turn 21 before sponsoring Mom or Dad. That's two decades plus one year before parents can even apply. If the parents haven't lived legally here for at least the previous year, they have to go back to their home country and wait 10 years to try again.
Conservative, self-declared patriots insist that carrying a pregnancy to term is a woman's God-given obligation but then attempt to defile an entire population of innocent newborns as tools of trickery.
Deport these newborns! they say. Banish these babies!
What God are these people praying to? What version of Jesus have they conjured up to demonize innocent children?
No one chooses to be born in America.
But everyone who is has the constitutional right to call this country home.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and an essayist for Parade magazine.
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