Apparently Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Texas State Representative Debbie Riddle (N-uts) have discovered a new and exciting way to spice up the debate over "anchor babies": pointing out that some of them are incipient terrorists, given American citizenship and an identity through anchor-babying, then shipped off for intensive training in being all terroristic and hating America and stuff. This sounds suspiciously like a riff on the plot of "Salt." Maybe we can exclude all the babies with beestung lips and a tendency to get regrettable tattoos.

The quantum of proof is perhaps not yet overwhelming:

COOPER: What former FBI officials — I mean, what evidence is there of some sort of long-term plot to have American babies born here and then become terrorists — raised as terrorists overseas and then come back here?

RIDDLE: Well, at this point, I don't have the hard evidence right here in front of me.

However, this is something that is being talked about by various members of Congress. This is being looked into. This is an issue with not only folks coming across our southern border, with what is called anchor babies, and coming over for the entitlement programs and for that sort of thing, but I think that this is a lot more sinister issue.

All of these issues, we need to look at, because this is a critical, critical issue for all of the American — American public.

COOPER: But you have no actual evidence?

RIDDLE: Other than that coming from former FBI folks.

COOPER: Can you tell us who these former FBI folks are, and what evidence they have or what evidence they have shown you?

RIDDLE: At this point, I'm not going to reveal that.

I know ex-FBI agents, and if there is anything they know, it is about secret international sleeper agent schemes. And places where you can really drink steadily without the bartender hassling you.

Anyway, this is only the latest riff on the recent discussion by some Republicans about amending the Constitution to change the terms of the Fourteenth Amendment to eliminate the provision making everyone born in the U.S. a citizen, a proposition sufficiently interesting to make Mike Huckabee seem utterly level-headed and statesmanlike.

I confess — I have a terrible bias. I want to move some portions of the law in the other direction. I want to amend Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution to read: "No person except one who has been a citizen of the United States for Thirty-Five Years shall be eligible to the Office of President."

Why? Well . . .

Or because of Arnold Schwarzenegger, if you're looking for a laugh. [The thirty-five year number is calculated to make everyone similarly situated: the original text has an age requirement of thirty-five, and this ensures what both domestic-born and naturalized citizens must be citizens for thirty-five years.]

I am, needless to say, not thrilled about anyone pushing a narrative about babies as sleeper agents.

The prevalence of anchor babies may be considerably higher than I assumed. The Transplanted Lawyer has a very good post on the issue, in which he and his commenters also address the question of whether and how much we should worry and what we should do about it. My inclination is to think that we should be cautious and deeply suspicious of Constitutional amendments calculated to deprive people of individual rights. I'm not happy about starting a trend. Moreover, I'm not sure that the problem, in terms of a threat to America's security or resources, lies with the babies. I think it lies with the parents, in that we have an unprincipled and haphazard approach to enforcing our immigration laws, and illegal immigrants who have babies here are more likely to be allowed to stay. Would "anchor babies" be a problem if immigration laws were, whether in current form or amended form, rigorously enforced, and having a kid here did not make a parent any more likely to win the right to stay? Or, do you prefer the open-borders approach of some libertarians?

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. says

    The prevalence of anchor babies, as described by TL, still appears to be pretty low. If anchor baby means "a baby born to a non-citizen," that may be a significant number. But if it means "a baby born to a non-citizen who calculated that a citizen child is an advantage" it is probably insanely low.

    I also think that TL is wrong that a citizen-child in any way deters the INS (or DHS, if that is the relevant agency now) from deporting a non-citizen parent. See, for example, this article or listen to Act 2 of this episode of This American Life.

  2. Imaginary Lawyer says

    "Anchor babies" are citizens of the United States. Essentially, it's a slur on people based on their ancestry. I guess calling them "second-generation wetbacks" doesn't dogwhistle quite as well.

    And why the heck would sleeper agents be coming in through our southern border? Isn't it much easier for them to sneak in from Canada?

  3. Old Geezer says

    So, I want to raise a child in a foreign terrorist camp and send him/her into the U.S. to blow things up. Why exactly does that child have to be a citizen to achieve success? None of the 19 or 20 9/11 miscreants were citizens nor did any of them enter the country illegally. With some 20- or 30 million illegal immigrants living in the country now, why does citizenship mean anything when it come to terrorism? Is it that we fear that a future terrorist is going to be able to collect Social Security?

  4. Imaginary Lawyer says

    It's that babies are kind of hard to beat on, politically speaking. You have to portray them as "anchor babies" or "terrorist babies" to get over the hump.

  5. says

    There's two parts to the legend of "anchor babies" — first, that people come here with the intent of having a baby within the geographic borders of the U.S.; and second, once that baby is born, the parents get to stay despite being undocumented.

    As to the first part of the legend, I was frankly ready to dismiss it as a bogeyman based on nothing but anecdotal evidence with no substantial basis in reality, until I read the Pew Report. Now, I think that we may have to look a little deeper into that aspect of things.

    Whether the second part of the legend is congruent with reality was an issue which I did not purport to address and do not purport to know.

  6. Imaginary Lawyer says

    I'm sure there are people who intend to have their kids here to give them citizenship. But I find it hard to believe that illegal aliens are any better than citizens at family planning. Something like, what, half of pregnancies are unplanned? More likely illegal immigrants come here, stay longer than they otherwise would because it's very hard to get back across the border a second time, and do what comes naturally.

    As for the second part of the legend, on your own blog you dissect the first proposition without ever addressing the second – which rather suggests you accept it as fact. Certainly if you're being skeptical of one it makes logical sense to be skeptical of the other, which is in fact not congruent with reality.

    I suspect the people whining about 'anchor babies' are, being ignorant of actual immigration law, confusing this with the fact that naturalized citizens may, in some circumstances, try to bring family members legally into the US. This is a time-consuming, expensive and uncertain process. It seems rather silly to insist that people have babies here with the intent that, eighteen years down the line, the baby MIGHT be able to get Mom and Dad into America.

  7. MadRocketScientist says

    It's simple, a baby born on US soil is a US citizen. Done, full stop.

    Mom & Dad might not be so lucky, if they are here illegally. If they are illegal, mom & dad can be deported and they have a choice. They can take their baby with them, and junior will be able to enjoy his US citizenship at age 18, or they can put junior up for adoption as INS hauls them back to the border, giving junior access to the US at a much earlier age.

  8. says

    I believe I made the same point as you regarding unplanned pregnancies, IL. I didn't intend to impliedly endorse the second facet of the "anchor baby" myth, but you've made a legitimate criticism of what I wrote there; I tried to clarify myself.

    Further attempts at doing so, however, would probably earn me the title of "threadjacker," so please feel free to criticize my writing on my blog. I can take it without crying, just you see. Do your worst.

    This forum should be for comments on Ken's post, which is offered to hold up to public ridicule the idea that because the infant babies of people in the country without legal authorization are here might one day become terrorists, we must amend the Constitution. The cocktail of fear and illogic on display in the quoted conversation is indeed breathtaking.

  9. Imaginary Lawyer says

    Ken's post links to your blog, and also notes that illegal immigrants who give birth here are "more likely to be allowed to stay", so we're on topic.

    ICE is happy to deport actual citizens; the idea that they would get all soft and misty-eyed about deporting illegal immigrants who have kids here, whether or not those kids are sekrit muslin terrorists in training, defies sanity.

    The linked article also has this gem:

    "Former FBI Assistant Director Thomas Fuentes followed up and basically said Riddle didn't have any idea what she was talking about. Cooper also said her office wasn't returning any follow up calls." In other words, they made it up to excite the base and don't care if they get called on it; the idiots who elect them like the first story and they're sticking to it.

  10. says

    IL, I agree with you wholeheartedly – though I think my comment gives the impression that I am entertaining another possibility. I was only playing the ball as it lies, which is to say, responding to the notion, pace TL, that the underlying allegation that illegals are engaging in childbirth tourism may be something other than a bogeyman.

    I don't think childbirth tourism exists in any real sense and even if it were happening I wouldn't want to amend the 14th Amendment to change the law.

  11. Rich Rostrom says

    Charles: Childbirth tourism is very real. It's a common thing for Korean women; it allows their sons to avoid the draft. Childbirth tourism Korea.

    A U.S. foreign service officer has reported encountering many U.S. citizens in the Middle East who have not been in the U.S. since a few months after birth.

    Yaser Hamdi (of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld) is such a "citizen".

    Furkan Dogan was a Turkish jihadist on the Mavi Marmora, part of the so-called Gaza Freedom Flotilla, who was killed in the mob attack on Israeli troops by the "passengers". He was also a "citizen" , though he left the U.S. when he was 2.

    I will agree that it is farfetched to suggest that terrorists would arrange birth tourism for future operatives. But I don't think it is farfetched to note that allowing birth tourism (legal or illegal) creates a growing pool of potential terrorist recruits with U.S. citizenship.

    It needs to stop.

  12. Old Geezer says

    @Rich Rostrom

    I'll see your Yasar Hamdi and raise you Timothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski, both citizens born to citizens.