THE BLOG

Are 'Anchor Babies' Sinking the American Economy?

Mar 15, 2012 | Updated May 15, 2012

In the wake of the Civil War, many newly freed slaves were struggling to try and establish themselves. Lacking many of the same rights, these African Americans were relegated to political purgatory. This was particularly true in ex-slave states, which refused to issue even basic human rights to black Americans. To that end, Congress moved to pass the 14th Amendment, the most revolutionary shift in policy since the Bill of Rights, which passed July 9th, 1868.

The 14th Amendment, in particular, its first article, established the unprecedented policy of birthright citizenship in America. As such, any male child, born on American soil, would be afforded all the rights of national and state citizenship. Dangerously controversial at the time, its passage marked a monumental step in the efforts to curtail systemic racism.

Fortunately, time has helped to ease the horrors of slavery. Today, it is status quo for African Americans to enjoy all the rights and privileges of citizenship. Through successes like the civil rights movement, African Americans have greatly elevated their social status, allowing them to compete on somewhat equal footing in our country. In post-segregation America, very few politicians evoke the racially charged rhetoric that used to divide our nation. Yet over a century later, the 14th amendment is still a hotly debated source of racial controversy.

Recently, the 14th Amendment has been evoked to achieve a different effect. The emphasis has dramatically shifted away from rehabilitating ex-slaves and their disenfranchised offspring. No one questions the citizenship of any citizen's children, regardless of race or gender. Everyone agrees that the children of Americans are Americans. Today, however, the 14th Amendment is being used to achieve a different purpose; one that is creating serious cracks in the infrastructure of our country.

Unfortunately, the modern interpretation of the 14th Amendment is subject to regular abuse, with non-residents exploiting its language to facilitate their own residency. The past few decades have seen a rash of pregnant foreigners intentionally giving birth on American soil, in order to ensure citizenship for their offspring, and potentially themselves.

This abuse typically takes two forms; known colloquially as either "anchor babies" or "birth tourist." The former is the practice of having a baby in America in order to immediately "anchor" the parents in our country, while the latter cases typically returns to their home nation with their infants, with the intention of sending them back to America later in life. Both types of babies are born into citizenship, and they both qualify to have their parents become citizens once they turn 21. However despite their similarities, the two practices appear to be having a dramatically different impact on the American economy.

A wealth of statistics exists indicating that anchor babies are a tremendous drain on our economy. The problem is the parents of anchor babies have no way of legally paying taxes, as they themselves are non-residents. Yet they still regularly use all the tax-sponsored services available to Americans. They birth their children in our public hospitals, fill our schools with non-English speakers, and crowd our prisons with drug crime. In just California alone, non-residents, make up nearly 30% of our prisons, costing California over a billion dollars annually in incarceration. Moreover, the violence typically associated with the Mexican drug trade has increasingly spilled across the border, affecting the quality of life across southwestern states.

As far as healthcare, illegal aliens give birth to about 340,000 children nation wide each year, imposing tremendous medical costs on hospitals. Several hospitals, including ones in Stockton, CA and Dallas, TX, report as many as 70% of their deliveries are to non-residents. Similarly, since the parents of infant citizens still qualify for welfare in order to protect the child, the Center for Immigration studies estimates nearly $2 billion dollars goes to illegal aliens annually, in the form of food stamps and free lunches.

Over 29% of all education dollars get spent on teaching anchor babies, including over $1 billion dollars teaching English as a second language, according to FAIR. Similarly, several affected states offer Spanish translation services in many public arenas, at an additional cost to the taxpayers. All told, FAIR estimates that as much as $100 billion tax dollars get spent on illegal aliens annually -- this is just in education.

Baby tourists, on the other hand, appear to be doing far less economic damage. Relative to anchor baby parents, baby tourist are usually much wealthier, affording their own medical care and largely avoiding incarceration while visiting. They come over in prearranged programs, catering to elite and wealthy families who can afford the thousands of dollars in fees. Prospective mothers pay handsomely for these services, between $15,000 and $45,000 per child. These programs include coordinated tourist programs, which involve sightseeing and opportunities to spend even more money on high-end shopping. However, this is still a program that takes advantage of the amendment.

These programs are becoming increasingly popular throughout Asia. It has become the popular craze amongst upper class women throughout the region, especially China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong as they see it as an opportunity to eventually get their children enrolled in American Universities. This creates a drain for resident students, as the increased population allows for less opportunities and higher costs for those who have lived their lives in America. Similarly, bills like the Dream Act aim to offer financial aid to nonresident children, siphoning funds from taxpaying students. South Koreans also find it attractive, as it precludes their children from mandatory military service (We pay to have American security forces in South Korea). The trend is also catching on outside Asia, with Nigeria and Turkey both reporting an explosion in birth tourism popularity.

The only area of the American economy negatively impacted by baby tourists is in our higher education. The key motivator for baby-tourist parents is to ensure in-country or in-state tuition, or even just basic access, for their children at top American universities. However since this is spread out across public and private universities, it is impossible to determine specifically how many tax dollars get spent educating such students. Instead, these students end up spending foreign dollars here in America; on things like tuition, rent, and living expenses. Plus, they have the ability to stay and work in America after graduating, contributing their advanced skills to our economy.

Baby tourists also become a much smaller problem when viewed relative to their anchor baby counterparts. The tourism happens far less often than anchor babies, 7,000 versus 340,000 per year. The parents of baby tourists almost always pay their own medical fees, as well as additionally convenience fees that get infused into our economy. Their offspring are usually much better educated than their anchor baby counterparts, leading to more hard science jobs entering the U.S. workforce.

While revising the first section of the 14th Amendment may seem like a handy fix, it is ony a part of the much larger discussion on immigration reform.

We still suffer racial bigotry in 2012, and while I do believe that we must address the infrastructure costs of illegal ilmmigration; the many reasons for the swelling tide of illegal immigrants deserves careful attention before we throw the anchor baby out with the bathwater of one of our most important constitutional guarantees. There must be more precise ways to fix this problem than a constitutional amendment.