Presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Jeb Bush have unapologetically used the term "anchor babies" to describe U.S.-born children of undocumented parents. A new Pew Research Center report say the number of these births is decreasing. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

A Pew report estimates 295,000 babies born to unauthorized immigrants in 2013—much lower than the Trump campaign suggests.

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush recently fielded some criticism regarding their use of the term “anchor babies”  for children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents. The derogatory term stems from the idea that these U.S.-born children essentially “anchor” their non-citizen parents to America, allowing them to mooch off the government and cut the line to legal citizenship. Essentially, the term’s users believe that “anchor babies” incentivize illegal immigration to the U.S., and therefore pose a social problem.

Here’s Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, quantifying this so-called problem on CNN this August:

So, if you think of the term anchor baby, which is those individuals coming to our country and having children here so that their children can be U.S. citizens, there's 400,000 of those taking place on a yearly basis. To put that in perspective, that is the equivalent of the population of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 47th largest city in our country.

Here’s the thing: the number Lewandowski cites is incorrect. The Pew Research Center’s new estimate pegs the number of children with at least one undocumented parent at 295,000 in 2013—much lower than the peak estimate of 370,000 births in 2007 (below, left). Trump’s figure of 400,000, while closer to Pew’s 2007 estimate, is higher than any annual estimate for the last two decades (below, right).

The talk of “anchor babies” is often lumped together with “birth tourism”—a different phenomenon that describes someone who (legally) travels to America specifically to give birth. But in either case, a U.S.-born child is neither a free ticket to government benefits nor a shied against deportation. According to The Huffington Post, more than 70,000 undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. born children were deported in 2013. In a Washington Post article exploring the fact and fiction of being a non-citizen parent of a U.S.-born child, journalist Janell Ross puts it like this:

For illegal immigrant parents, being the parent of a U.S. citizen child almost never forms the core of a successful defense in an immigration court. In short, if the undocumented parent of a U.S.-born child is caught in the United States, he or she legally faces the very same risk of deportation as any other immigrant.

Still, Trump continues to present these U.S. born children as threats to American values, ignoring that his words can have potentially damaging effects on their well-being. Equally concerning is his prescription to curb the number of “anchor babies” by ending birthright citizenship, which despite being dismissed by many legal experts, seems to enjoy considerable public support.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: San Diego's Trolley
    Transportation

    Out of Darkness, Light Rail!

    In an era of austere federal funding for urban public transportation, light rail seemed to make sense. Did the little trains of the 1980s pull their own weight?

  2. photo: Developer James Rouse visiting Harborplace in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
    Life

    What Happened to Baltimore’s Harborplace?

    The pioneering festival marketplace was among the most trendsetting urban attractions of the last 40 years. Now it’s looking for a new place in a changed city.

  3. photo: San Francisco skyline
    Equity

    Would Capping Office Space Ease San Francisco’s Housing Crunch?

    Proposition E would put a moratorium on new commercial real estate if affordable housing goals aren’t met. But critics aren’t convinced it would be effective.   

  4. Equity

    What ‘Livability’ Looks Like for Black Women

    Livability indexes can obscure the experiences of non-white people. CityLab analyzed the outcomes just for black women, for a different kind of ranking.

  5. Design

    Why Amsterdam’s Canal Houses Have Endured for 300 Years

    A different kind of wealth distribution in 17th-century Amsterdam paved the way for its quintessential home design.

×