Late last week at a campaign stop in South Carolina, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) revived a debunked conservative talking point about so-called “anchor babies” — a derogatory term for the American-born children of undocumented immigrants who are full citizens under the 14th Amendment.
But Bachmann, who professes to revere the Constitution, suggested that these American citizens with foreign parents are somehow here “illegally” and that the “anchor baby” problem should be dealt with through legislation:
Bachmann, who was also asked about her position on illegal immigration, told the audience she thinks it is possible through legislation to stop the “anchor baby” problem of children born to mothers living illegally in the United States. When that happens she said, “A whole new set of implications arise for the United States. I do not believe that the American taxpayer should be paying benefits to people who are in the United States illegally.”
Presumably the legislative remedy Bachmann is referring to is the Birthright Citizenship Act, an unconstitutional bill that Bachmann co-sponsored in the previous Congress. The 14th Amendment provides that “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States . . . are citizens of the United States,” with a narrow exception for children of ambassadors and other people who aren’t subject to U.S. law. Bachmann’s bill openly defies this constitutional guarantee by declaring that the children of undocumented immigrants no longer enjoy birthright citizenship.
Additionally, there is, in fact, no “anchor baby” problem. The term reflects conservative paranoia that women come from different countries and intentionally give birth in the United States to try to “anchor” themselves in this country. As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) once put it, “People come here to have babies. They come here to drop a child. It’s called ‘drop and leave.’”
As many experts have pointed out, this is a baseless and senseless concern — only 9 percent of undocumented immigrants had children shortly after arriving, and undocumented parents with American children have no easier path to citizenship and are still subject to forced deportation. That’s a pretty flimsy anchor.
Nevertheless, conservatives are going to extraordinary lengths to punish undocumented immigrants through harsh legislation. Bachmann appeared at the event with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) and Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), two conservatives who the Washington Post points out have been able to use their own race as a cover to go after immigrants while avoiding accusations of racism.