Suddenly we’re hearing about a strange new threat called “anchor babies,” and news media are not doing a very good job getting the facts right and putting the term in context. It’s important for journalists to report this carefully because the far right is citing the alleged threat of “anchor babies” to justify monkeying with one of the most important parts of the Constitution, the 14th Amendment, with its guarantee of citizenship to anyone born in this country.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who claims to be a moderate, has been warning of the dire threat of “anchor babies” every chance he gets. Recently on CNN he was asked by Wolf Blitzer how many illegal immigrants come here just to have babies that automatically become U.S. citizens. Graham said there are “reports” of some 6,000. Blitzer failed to follow up and ask some obvious questions: What “reports?” What are they based on? And this figure of 6,000: does it refer to 6,000 a year, a decade, or some grand total over all time?
Politifact examines the issue carefully in a long article and ends up saying there’s no evidence of any large number of illegal immigrants coming here to give birth:
“Graham appears to be conflating two things — a pattern of wealthy foreigners engaging in ‘birth tourism’ using legal visas, and illegal immigration of poorer people from Mexico. In our view, failing to make the distinction exaggerates the alleged problem and uses inflammatory rhetoric to obscure legitimate policy questions. On balance, we rate his comment Half True.”
Rating it half true seems overly generous. Graham knows very well he is misleading the public, and the overall impression he’s leaving is totally false. Even Lou Dobbs won’t go as far as Graham; Dobbs defends the 14th Amendment and “birthright citizenship.”
This is an issue ripe for demagoguery, and it’s up to journalists to report the facts carefully and help the public have a sensible debate about immigration.
(Photo: Still from video of CBS News report.)