Anchor me, baby, because I find it impossible to write with restraint when politicians use babies to prey on prejudice and misinform the public to win votes.
That’s the story of the Republican presidential contest, as Donald Trump and his opponents make xenophobic nonsense about “anchor babies” a top issue. I won’t rehash here all the debunking of this phony idea that immigrant hordes come here to have babies. Race-baiting bunk is a staple of America’s presidential politics, and nothing I write will change that.
But when it comes to the “babies” part of anchor babies, I can’t stay silent. I am 100 percent pro-baby. And I’m old enough to remember when politicians were, too, cooing at the diaper set instead of scapegoating them.
Unfortunately, mainstream media outlets are helping spread ignorance by portraying anchor babies as a “controversy” or a “complex issue” when it is no such thing.
When it comes to babies – anchor or any other kind – the only issue we face is that we don’t have enough of them. California faces a historic decline; it had nearly 200,000 fewer children under age 10 in 2010 as it had in 2000. Why? The birthrate has dropped below the replacement level to maintain a population.
Guess what, America? You have the same problem. The country’s birthrate dropped below replacement in 2007 and hasn’t recovered. The recession produced 2.3 million fewer babies than expected – which makes the babies of immigrants a solution, not a problem.
Serious presidential candidates should offer plans to incentivize the arrival of more babies and make them taxpaying grownups who can support our growing population of retirees.
Yes, I know that Jeb Bush, whose birth anchored him in presidential politics, argues that the real “anchor baby” problem involves Asian couples who come here to have a U.S. citizen baby and return to their home countries. The media have labeled this an “issue” in regions such as the San Gabriel Valley, where I live.
Isn’t so-called birth tourism a trivialization of citizenship or an incursion into our communities, as Bush suggests?
The only problems with Chinese birth tourists (estimates are in the thousands) are that there aren’t enough of them, and that they don’t stay and make their lives here. For wealthy foreigners, U.S. citizenship is a form of insurance against instability back home. But many U.S.-born Chinese babies won’t retain that insurance past age 18, since China doesn’t permit dual citizenship into adulthood.
Here’s hoping that, at that age, a good number of those babies will choose to remain Americans, study here, and become productive citizens whose taxes help pay my Social Security.
To be fair, presidential candidates aren’t the only ones unnecessarily raising alarms about babies. Federal law enforcement challenges pregnant mothers flying into the country about their intentions, even though birth tourism is legal. The feds even raided maternity hotels in Southern California as part of an investigation into the finances of birth tourism businesses. Given the national baby shortage, perhaps the feds should stick to their usual pursuits, like prosecuting marijuana activity.
Strip away the rhetoric and rationalizations, and what you have with “anchor babies” is an unreasoning fear. After all, babies and immigrant parents represent everything this country needs – investment, risk-taking, striving for a better life.
So if you have a problem with these babies, you have a problem with the American Dream. Maybe you should consider emigrating.
Love it or leave it, baby.
Joe Mathews is California & innovation editor for Zócalo Public Square, for which he writes the Connecting California column.