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:

politifact-photos-Occ_Dem_Jindal

 

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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