The Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era policy on Thursday that protects illegal immigrant parents of “anchor babies”.
“Anchor baby” parents will no longer be protected by DAPA policy
On Thursday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, after consulting with the U.S. Attorney General, rescinded a 2014 policy enacted by former President Obama that deferred deportation of illegal immigrant parents of so-called “anchor babies”.
The policy, called the “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents”, or “DAPA”, was enacted on November 20, 2014 under former President Obama. Under the policy, illegal immigrants who could sneak across the U.S. border and give birth were permitted to stay, since their child was then a de-facto U.S. citizen.
Automatic citizenship under the 14th Amendment
Section 1, Clause 1 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution declares: “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.”
Originally intended to protect the rights of freed slaves during the Civil War’s reconstruction period, the law has instead become a popular loophole that is exploited by individuals seeking an easy path into the U.S. The Social Security Number and the U.S. citizenship status of their “anchor baby” is viewed by illegal immigrant parents as an “investment”, since the child can later use their citizen status to sponsor their parents or other family members to legally immigrate to the U.S.
Impact of DAPA has been devastating on the U.S. and immigrants alike
As a result of the DAPA policy, the number of babies born in the U.S. to uninsured and unemployed illegal immigrant parents has dramatically increased. In September 2015, the Pew Research Center estimated that there were approximately 295,000 “anchor babies” born in the U.S. in 2013. Following the adoption of the DAPA policy in 2014, that number increased dramatically.
Profiteering and exploitation of desperate immigrants
The policy has also created an underground market that preys on foreign nationals. In 2015, federal agents created a national media sensation when they raided 37 “maternity hotels” in Southern California. According to authorities, pregnant foreign women paid companies for packages that covered travel to, and accommodations in the U.S., “for the sole purpose of having a U.S. citizen baby.” In a statement released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the authorities explained that the women had been charged up to $50,000 each for lodging, transportation, food, and the promise of a Social Security number and U.S. passport for their baby.
Impact on U.S. healthcare systems
The impact of “anchor babies” on the U.S. healthcare industry has been devastating. In almost every case, the illegal immigrant parents have no health insurance, and in many cases, no means to pay any of the associated medical bills, forcing healthcare providers to absorb the entire cost of the birth. In one high-profile case, a Honduran woman became the first foreign woman to have a baby born in the New York area with the Zika virus, a condition that can cost that state’s health care system upwards of a million dollars.
“The problem is the parents of anchor babies have no way of legally paying taxes, as they themselves are non-residents. Yet they still regularly use all the tax-sponsored services available to Americans. They birth their children in our public hospitals, fill our schools with non-English speakers, and crowd our prisons with drug crime.” – The Huffington Post
“tremendous drain on our economy”
A 2012 article published by the normally-liberal Huffington Post explained the impact of “anchor babies” in forceful terms. “A wealth of statistics exists indicating that anchor babies are a tremendous drain on our economy”. The Post added, “The problem is the parents of anchor babies have no way of legally paying taxes, as they themselves are non-residents. Yet they still regularly use all the tax-sponsored services available to Americans. They birth their children in our public hospitals, fill our schools with non-English speakers, and crowd our prisons with drug crime.”
Unfair to immigrant parents
As an undocumented parent of a DAPA child, illegal immigrants are caught between a rock and a hard place. Their child is a U.S. citizen and entitled to all of the benefits of that citizenship. This sense of entitlement discourages the parents from returning to their home country and applying for legal U.S. resident status or citizenship.
However, as an undocumented immigrant, the parents have no means to gain legal employment, they cannot vote, or enjoy any of the other benefits afforded to legal residents or citizens of the U.S. They are themselves “anchored” within a system that they are reluctant to abandon because of their child, and yet prevented from truly joining because of their undocumented status.
DACA remains…. for now.
The DHS announced the recision of DAPA in a statement published on their website Thursday. At the same time, the DHS noted that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or “DACA” program, would remain in effect.
In a press conference held on April 17, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained the President’s thoughts on DACA, “I think he’s been consistent about two things. One, that he has a heart. He wants to make sure that he does what’s in the interest of children in particular. But secondly, I think the President’s priorities since he took office have been very clear that the focus would be on folks who presented a danger to public safety.”
When pushed further on the topic, Spicer added, “the President wants to make sure that he addresses the issue of illegal immigration and all of its components in terms of visa reform, border security, the wall, all of these things, in a system of priorities. And right now, the priority is to make sure that folks who present a public-safety concern to the United States and to our citizens are dealt with first, and that’s what’s happened.”