Bobby Jindal isn’t an anchor baby. That’s the whole point.

Occupy Democrats is in a bit of a tiff with PolitiFact over a Pants on Fire rating for their claim that Bobby Jindal is an anchor baby. Jindal, whose parents immigrated to the United States with his mother still carrying him as a fetus, was born has been taking heat for his call to end birthright citizenship despite his own citizenship coming by dint of his birth on American soil.

But as much as I want to be on Occupy Democrats’ team here and stick it to Bobby Jindal, PolitiFact is right: Jindal may have birthright citizenship, but that doesn’t make him an anchor baby.

The claim in question was made in this meme, posted to Occupy Democrats’s Facebook page:



As our very own Chris Walker explained yesterday, the term “anchor baby” describes a very specific, tedious process by which an immigrants has a child in order to secure citizenship not for the child, but for themselves, allowing them to stay in America legally when they otherwise wouldn’t. In order for this to be the case, the child with citizenship rights has to be at least 21 years old, at which point they can apply for their parents to become permanent residents. Only five years after that can they become citizens.

Bobby Jindal, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Bobby Jindal, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

As PolitiFact notes, if Jindal’s parents had used this strategy, they wouldn’t have been eligible to become citizens until 1992. Jindal’s mother was naturalized in 1976 and his father was naturalized in 1986, when Jindal was 5 and 15 years old, respectively.

Occupy Democrats responded to PolitiFact’s ruling, saying that they were only saying what other outlets, such as ThinkProgress and Salon, were reporting with respect to Jindal’s parents’ citizenship. Not only was that inaccurate, but it shouldn’t matter.

Insisting that Bobby Jindal is an anchor baby, despite the fact that his parents became naturalized citizens long before he could have helped them become citizens, only goes to justify the conservative claim that anchor babies are a widespread phenomenon in the first place. They aren’t, as it’s a process that takes a quarter of a century to execute. The claim also suggests that birthright citizenship for children extends to their parents, which is both not true and rhetorically dangerous in what remains an unsettlingly two-sided debate about whether our country’s most basic conception of citizenship is in fact a good idea.

So sure, criticize Bobby Jindal for rejecting his multicultural heritage. And criticize him for opposing birthright citizenship. And criticize him for saying he’s “happy to use” the term “anchor babies,” which is an overtly racial attack on Latino (no, Jeb, not Asian) immigrants. But don’t call him an anchor baby. It’s an important distinction, and it matters that we get it right.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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34 Responses to “Bobby Jindal isn’t an anchor baby. That’s the whole point.”

  1. Lee Sebel says:

    Jon Green needs an editor. Or the current editor needs to be fired.

    “…a very specific, tedious process by which an immigrants has a child”

    “…his mother still carrying him as a fetus, was born has been taking heat”


    The herd needs thinning. We should start by offing all the smug bloggers who are either too lazy or too illiterate to effectively proofread their creations before foisting them on the digital universe.

  2. cats1cowboy says:

    Even so, being a citizen and being a natural born citizen are still two different things.

  3. cats1cowboy says:

    Except that SCOTUS gets it wrong. The 14th Amendment is a reconstruction Amendment, supplementing the 13th Amendment and deals with former slaves, only. The context of the debates is cleat to anyone but an ‘intellectual’ judge looking for loopholes.

  4. Colin V says:

    You really think the average GOP voter is going to make these nuanced distinctions about who is and isn’t an “anchor baby”? The whole premise of “anchor babies” is that the baby is born in the US so the baby can secure US citizenship which is exactly what happened to the Jindal family. They were pregnant and came here knowing full well their child (Bobby Jindal) would be born here while there were here (legally).

    The base of the GOP is a rabid, xenophobic group and Jindal is just another brown person to them. Jindal is a modern day Uncle Tom.

  5. Steve Violette says:

    This fact ought to make conservatives’ heads spin.

  6. kurtsteinbach says:

    The Founding Fathers knew this and so do most Democrats. . . .

  7. caphillprof says:

    No, Jindal is an anchor baby and Cruz is Canadian. This is American politics. The big lie always prevails.

  8. perljammer says:

    How lucky we are to have a Consituation to save us from relying on sophistry and specious reasoning.

    Article IV, Section 2 of the US Constitution: “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”

  9. perljammer says:

    I just cited a SCOTUS ruling, not my opinion; this isn’t a matter of “if you are right”. The rest of it is a question of political will and enforcement.

  10. Hue-Man says:

    Remember all those migrants arriving in Greece, Italy, Hungary, etc.?

    “Faced with the influx of migrants, the “boss” of Germany’s bosses said the 800,000 expected this year were welcome. According to him, Germany needs this labor. “Let’s keep the best qualified,” proclaims Ulrich Weber, one of the bosses of Deutsche Bahn while Frank Appel, the director of Deutsche Post launches in turn: “Give us work permits”.”

    Face à l’afflux de migrants, le patron des patrons allemands a affirmé que les 800 000 migrants attendus cette année étaient les bienvenues. Selon lui, l’Allemagne a besoin de cette main d’œuvre. “Gardons-les plus qualifiés”, clame aussi Ulrich Weber, l’un des patrons de la Deutsche Bahn alors que Franck Appel, le directeur de la Deutsche Post, lance à son tour : “Accordez-nous des permis de travail”.

    Why? Tens of thousands of jobs are vacant in Germany and with an aging population, the shortfall in manpower is expected to grow to 6 million by 2030.

    Germany with 1/4 of the U.S. population has an older population than the United States so multiplying by 4 over-states U.S. labor requirements. Still, why is the TeaParty/GOP spending so intent on deporting 12 million people when they are required in today’s work force PLUS another 20 million-ish will be needed in the next 15 years?

    Xenophobia or outright racism?

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  12. emjayay says:

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  13. emjayay says:

    If you are right, how do all the for instance Chinese babies born by tourists in organized baby birthing deals like the ones that have been raided in CA get to be citizens? Everyone’s assumption is that if you manage to cross the border pop the kiddie on our side the line they are a citizen.

  14. perljammer says:

    There are varying opinions among both lay people and legal scholars regarding the “birthright citizenship” clause in the 14th Amendment. SCOTUS has issued only one ruling with direct bearing on the subject.

    In the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), the Supreme Court ruled that a person who

    1) is born in the United States
    2) of parents who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of a foreign power
    3) whose parents have a permanent domicile and residence in the United States
    4) whose parents are there carrying on business and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity of the foreign power to which they are subject

    becomes, at the time of his birth, a citizen of the United States by virtue of the first clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

    So according to this ruling: No children of foreign diplomats. No children of foreign tourists. In fact, no children of any foreigner who doesn’t have a permanent US residence (however that might be defined) and is not involved in some sort of business activity (however that might be defined).

    Maybe some day SCOTUS will have the opportunity to rule in the case of someone born in the US, doesn’t meet the Wong Kim Ark requirements, and is fighting deportation.

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  16. bpollen says:

    Albatross baby?

  17. judybrowni says:

    Easy fix: “According to all the Republican. Presidential candidates — including Jindal — that would make Jindal an ‘Anchor Baby.'”

  18. Knottwhole says:

    Anchor baby?
    What happened to the rights of the unborn?

  19. Houndentenor says:

    And then their children?

    A lot of counties do it this way. They have people in their country who are third or even fourth generation who are not and will never be citizens. they are exploited and locked out of opportunities and it creates a lot of problems.

  20. nicho says:

    They are citizens of whatever country their parents are citizens of. If an American couple goes to Spain on vacation and has a baby while there, the baby is an American citizen, but not a Spanish citizen.

  21. Baal says:

    Trumpism leads to an inevitable problem that can only be solved with an arbitrary line in the sand. All humans here at some point had Homo sapiens ancestors who came here from other places (even Native Americans, you just have to go back some 15,000 years or more). At some point we all had ancestors not born here. So by a Trump definition, the first generation born here of immigrant parents is an “anchor baby”. Not a citizen. If parents aren’t a citizen then their children aren’t either, no matter where they are born. This means there are no citizens of any nation in the Western hemisphere. Extending the argument, there are no citizens of any continent except Africa. This sounds dumb, and it is is, but it is the logical consequence, and the only way out is to draw an arbitrary line that says NOW this generation is a citizen. With Trump it is simple where to draw that line.

    That line is whenever you or your ancestors got here provided they are white.

  22. emjayay says:

    Since life begins at conception, and the organism from that point on is a human, it only makes sense to consider only people conceived in the US as citizens. Moving a human from one country to another, particularly if they are inside a person who is a citizen of the first country, does not make them a citizen of the second country. Piyush Bobby Jindal is a citizen of India.

  23. Hue-Man says:

    There is a valid public policy issue that could be discussed in a less explosive environment – who should be admitted as members of the Club? The U.S. Constitution and other countries provide for birthright citizenship. Other democracies limit citizenship based on the immigration status and other factors of the parents. There is no “right” answer but if it is going to be changed, it needs to be addressed seriously and within the context of a constitutional amendment.

    As someone who lives in a birthright citizenship country which also happens to bring in new “green card holders” at among the highest rates in the world (along with Australia), this circus show reflects poorly on the United States generally and the GOP specifically. It is a vehicle to display xenophobia, overt racism, and disdain for millions of people who make the U.S. work. The GOP seems willing to turn its back on a driving force which, for two centuries, has made the U.S. a world leader – the waves of people who have chosen to immigrate to the U.S. (including many of my ancestors).

    Have we learned nothing from history?

  24. 2karmanot says:

    Thank you for clearing that up! Will Fetus Buoy work?

  25. BeccaM says:

    And Jindal himself, apparently.

  26. Indigo says:

    In Trumplandia, they’re all anchor babies. In the United States, the rule of law is still in force. The Whimsy of Billionaires is not (yet) a legally binding force.

  27. Don Chandler says:

    So Trump is half an anchor baby?

  28. Houndentenor says:

    Implosion? There was no “plosion” im- or ex-. You needed a microscope to find his poll numbers.

  29. Houndentenor says:

    And then what country are such people citizens of?

    The result of such a change would be numbers of noncitizens living and working here with no rights and they couldn’t be deported because they aren’t citizens of any other country either.

  30. BeccaM says:

    Well, that’d take a Constitutional amendment. Not saying such reform wouldn’t be a bad thing, but the Amendment process is what makes this not a simple solution. With feckless, cowardly Democrats on one side and fascism-baiting radical Republicans on the other, I would worry about the language and intent of any 14th Amendment reformation effort.

    In many ways, it’s a good thing the bar for federal amendments is so high, because we’ve seen what happens when legislatures and popular vote referenda are available avenues for state constitutional changes. Invariably, the tyranny of the mob takes over and civil rights are abridged.

  31. Daddy Bear says:

    Simpler solution: deport anyone who says Birthright Citizenship should be ended…

  32. nicho says:

    Simple solution — do what other countries do. Birthright citizenship is an anachronism that arose when this massive country was sparsely populated, and they wanted more citizens. In other countries, you get birthright citizenship if you are born to parents that have been in the country legally for a period of time — say five years.

  33. Demosthenes says:

    Perhaps “Bobby” Jindal isn’t technically an anchor baby.

    I just this misperception among the GOP base is one of the causes of his campaign implosion.

  34. BeccaM says:

    Technically, you’re 100% right, Jon.

    But the point is your far more accurate description of the origins of the term ‘anchor baby’ and explanation as to why it’s a ridiculous, unwieldy and unworkable way to become a U.S. citizen is contrary to how the radical right fascist contingent has been using the term lately and what they believe about ‘anchor babies.’

    For them, any and all babies born on American soil, thus acquiring birthright citizenship, when said progeny is parented by two foreigner parents — whether they are in the U.S. legally or not — is by their definition an ‘anchor baby.’ The “…and sponsor parents for green cards” part has long since been jettisoned in their xenophobic nationalist narrative. And to listen to wingnut media, they think the baby entitles the parents to stay in the U.S., collect welfare and other benefits, and basically act as an ‘anchor’ to allow non-Americans to remain in the country.

    Yes, I concur: It matters that we get it right. But we should also remember that the technical definition and theoretical outcome of the traditional ‘anchor baby’ is NOT the same argument the far right is pushing. They’ve already moved their goalposts out to Trumplandia, where the 14th Amendment only ever applied to freed slaves and not anybody else (and sometimes not even them…) and “fabulous, great experts and legal advisors” (who always remain anonymous when cited) have rejected nearly 150 years of jurisprudence regarding birthright naturalization in favor of their desired outcome.

    A few weeks ago, their narrative was that a child born to parents in the U.S. illegally shouldn’t be granted citizenship. That quickly morphed to “anybody whose motives could be judged as deliberately trying to give birth in the U.S. to acquire citizenship for the baby.” And already this week it’s, “Anybody who isn’t already a U.S. citizen” — meaning no birthright citizenship at all, save for children of those who are already U.S. citizens. It wouldn’t surprise me if in another news cycle or three it regresses to “no citizenship for brown people’s kids.”

    My point is it’s all fine and good to try to drag the conversation and the underlying assumptions about it back to more honest terminology. But it only works in debate when the other side hasn’t already redefined those terms for themselves. Using the Republican far-right’s current operative definition as to what they think an anchor baby is, Jindal is one. Again, by THEIR definition and specifically what they claim needs to be stopped. (And yes, it’s ironic that Jindal himself defends of the use of the term, blithely ignoring how those in his own party would define the category of ‘anchor baby’ to include citizens precisely like himself.)

    So no, it’s not the whole point that technically, Jindal isn’t an anchor baby. The point is he is precisely now among the groups of people Trump and the rest of the GOP leaders would now ban from acquiring U.S. citizenship by stint of being born here to non-citizen parents.

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