An “anchor baby” refers to a child born in the United States to a noncitizen mother. Put more simply, it is an American child born from an unauthorized immigrant, even if the immigrant has lived in the United States for many years. It is generally considered to be a derogatory and negative remark. The child is considered the link or “anchor” for assisting his or her parents in legally immigrating to the United States.

What is Birthright Citizenship?

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes birthright citizenship. It states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

The clause establishes that all persons who are born in the United States automatically become U.S. citizens, regardless of the child’s parents’ citizenship status. In this way, the “anchor baby” (who is a U.S. citizen by birthright) can petition for specific family members to lawfully immigrate to the U.S. when the child becomes an adult.

Why are “Anchor Babies” Controversial?

The term “anchor babies” was used by then Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who questioned whether they were truly American citizens. The concern became that undocumented (i.e. illegal) immigrants abuse birthright citizenship and illegally enter the United States while pregnant so they can deliver their child in the United States. While the data is mixed whether this type of illegal immigration occurs, it is a concern for authorities.

Will the Constitution Be Amended to Change Birthright Citizenship?

At this time, there is no indication that there will be a change to birthright citizenship. Nevertheless, there are many people who believe that children born in the United States from undocumented immigrants should not automatically be given U.S. citizenship. They argue that the drafters of the Constitution did not intend for people to abuse birthright citizenship.

How Does the “Anchor Baby” Help Others Immigrate to the U.S.?

In U.S. immigration, there are two categories of family-based immigration: immediate relatives and family preference. “Immediate relative” immigration is given special priority in that the immigrants do not have to wait in line for a visa number to become available to immigrate.

A parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old is considered an “immediate relative” and can therefore be placed on the fast-track to citizenship.

Is it Illegal for People to Come to the United States to Give Birth?

There are no current laws which specifically disallow pregnant undocumented immigrants from entering the United States and having their baby. Notwithstanding, if the parents misrepresent their intentions for traveling to the United States, they may be cited and found guilty for serious violations such as fraudulent intent in an immigration application.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Immigration laws can be very strict; violations of immigration laws can lead to legal penalties for the person committing the violation and for persons who assist in such conduct. You may wish to hire an immigration lawyer if you need help filing any claims, documents, or applications. Your attorney can assist you with those tasks and can also represent you if you need to appear before an immigration judge or panel.