WISCONSIN — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the latest GOP champion of an immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives, used an offensive term for undocumented people while touring town halls in Wisconsin this week to deliver the conservative pitch for comprehensive immigration reform.
Across Wisconsin, Ryan’s presentation emphasized achieving border security goals and universal E-Verify before moving undocumented immigrants to a “probationary” status. His embrace of a path to citizenship is certainly a shift away from the “self-deportation” immigration position Ryan campaigned on as a vice presidential candidate. But in responding to a skeptical participant at an Burlington, Wisconsin town hall, Ryan used the derogatory term “anchor babies” to describe the American-born children of undocumented immigrants, who are citizens under the 14th Amendment:
That’s what they call it, anchor babies. It’s a person who comes and has a child here, if you’re born here you’re a naturalized citizen. You have to change the constitution. There’s a little bit of legal debate about whether you have to or not. I think it comes down fairly clearly that you have to change the constitution to change the definition of citizenship to not being born here or being born with legal parents. That will take a long, long time, years […] But it’s really treating a symptom, right. People are coming across the border illegal or overstaying their visas. Therefore illegal immigration is fairly easy, and then people are having what’s called anchor babies.
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Ryan has used “anchor babies” in conversation with his constituents before. But, as Ryan makes the case for the undocumented to come out of the shadows, one would expect him to stop using such terms meant to appeal to nativist fears.
In the middle of its push to appeal to a broader base, the Republican party has suffered setback after setback trying to screen out the kind of language Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) casually drops, including when Rep. Don Young (R-AK) described Hispanics as “wetbacks.”