ThinkProgress on the origins of a term that has become popular with with Republicans.
The GOP presidential campaign kicked off with real estate mogul Donald Trump’s incendiary remarks about Mexican immigrants being rapists and drug dealers, and quickly evolved to endorsements of changing the Constitution to strip millions of immigrants of their citizenship. Now, presidential candidates have a new angle on the immigration debate: Targeting the children of foreign-born parents as so-called “anchor babies.”
The term “anchor babies” has long been relegated to the realm of ultra-conservative arguments against allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. But recently, the phrase has been widely used by Republican lawmakers as part of a clarion call to repeal the 14th Amendment, which grants automatic citizenship to every child born on U.S. soil, regardless of the immigration status of their parents.
Mr. Trump champions the phrase and compounds it by by making the demonstrably false statement that only the United States grants birthright citizenship. (Canada and most of Latin America also grants citizenship to children born in the country. Why else would Ted Cruz have had to renounce his Canadian citizenship last year?) Jeb Bush manfully asks “What would you call them?” even after he served on a committee that called for the disuse of the term. (Hillary Clinton replied via Twitter: “They’re called ‘babies.'”) Bobby Jindal, the pathetic example of “me-tooism,” is “happy to use it,” perhaps because he is the one closest to being a child who would have been called such so he’s using self-hating deflection. Scott Walker has been all over the place on it, using the term one week and then, predictably, changing his mind on it the next. Only Marco Rubio has stood up to condemn the term, so even a blind squirrel can find his nuts.
Like “death panels” or “religious liberty,” it has become a buzzword in the presidential campaign, but it’s also a dog whistle to the kind of people that the party needs to draw in for their base. Those would be the xenophobic and racist-tinged white males who are big talkers about the Constitution and freedom but are all too happy to junk the parts they don’t like in order to keep living out their gun-stroking fantasies of their perfect world when life wasn’t so complicated, people knew their place, and calling someone a racist or sexist epithet didn’t mean their reality show got cancelled.
If those are the kind of people the Republicans think they need to win a presidential election, we’ve got a lot bigger problem than immigration and what to call people who in any other place would be called citizens.