The Obscenity of the Term “Anchor Baby”

by Brendan Beery

Chasing shiny objects at breakneck speeds, the media have mostly cruised right past the real problem with the use of the term “anchor babies.” baby

The term is a Republican descriptor of the American-born infant children of undocumented immigrants. The idea here is that there is some mass tendency on the part of Mexican women to hang out around the US border during the latter stages of pregnancy. When the contractions come, the Mexican mother-to-be steps across the borderline, squats, and “drops anchor” in the form of a slimy, mucousy United States citizen.

“Anchor baby” even sounds offensive (it’s the proverbial fingernail across the blackboard – an ugly offense to the eardrums, like the word panties). Pundits have universally agreed that the term is ugly and off-putting.

Until recently, it was assumed by all that Mexicans were the target of the ugly slur, but Jeb Bush has added Asians to the mix. Apparently we are being raided by a swarm of unanchored aliens willing to traverse vast oceans to give birth: this gives new meaning to the term “breaking water.” jeb

Whether the intended target of Republican xenophobia be Mexicans or Asians, talking heads universally opine that the problem with the use of “anchor baby” is political: when Republicans use the term, they offend and alienate certain ethnic populations. These talking heads are correct that this is the political problem with using the term, but it is certainly not the moral problem with using it.

At the level of base humanity, the trouble isn’t that the term “anchor baby” offends minorities; it’s that it dehumanizes babies. While the objects of right-wing vitriol are the parents of these children, notice how the dehumanizing tag attaches to the babies themselves. How any person could so linguistically debase a guiltless being and simultaneously call himself “pro-life” is one of the great Republican mysteries du jour.

The hullabaloo around this controversy perfectly illustrates the difference between conservative and progressive worldviews.

The conservative, driven by scattershot rage, obsesses over the wrongdoing of the parents of “anchor babies.” The progressive, on the other hand, obsesses over the wellbeing of the babies themselves.

While conservatives are bent on punishing parents even though unearned trauma might befall those parents’ children, progressives are bent on helping children even though unearned benefits might befall those children’s parents.

And there you have it.


4 thoughts on “The Obscenity of the Term “Anchor Baby”

  1. The funny thing about it all is that they think that the whole reason the undocumented parents do it is for citizenship. The laws around “anchor babies” and their parents are actually quite strict. Why yes the child becomes a citizen, however, the parents are not guaranteed citizenship rights, in fact, they have to wait 21yrs before they can even be petitioned by their child. Then the parents have to wait until their petition is processed which can take years and the parents have to return to their home country to do so.


  2. I have best heard the broad difference Conservatives and progressives on social policies boiled down in statistical terms… Type 1 vs. Type 2 error. On the one side, ONLY those who are deserving of something (welfare benefits, right to vote, etc.) should be allowed to have it, even if that means we so restrict access to it that some deserving people miss out. On the other side, we want ALL deserving people to have the access they deserve, even if that means accepting the fact that some undeserving folks will slip through the cracks.

    I find the latter much more palatable. And much more Christian, for those that want to moralize their decisions in that manner.


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