"We need to target the mother. Call it sexist, but that's the way nature made it. Men don't drop anchor babies, illegal alien mothers do." That statement was being pushed by the author of Arizona's immigration law. He's not alone.
The neat distillation of current anti-immigrant thinking was in an email spread around by State Senator Russell Pearce, and cited by The Nation's Robin Templeton in a report on the recently revived, anti-immigrant rhetoric on birthright citizenship — the part of the Fourteenth Amendment that stipulates that babies born on American soil are automatically granted citizenship. (Sorry, what was that about upholding the constitution?) Here are some other examples of the blatantly sexist and xenophobic obsessions with Latina women's fertility:
"It's invasion by birth canal," the leader of a California anti-immigrant ballot initiative told the Los Angeles Times. The head of an anti-immigrant group in Virginia called for an investigation into "whether or not illegal aliens have a preferred breeding season." According to Texas Republican Representative Ron Paul, "awarding automatic citizenship to children born here minutes after their mothers illegally cross the border" is "a matter of national security."
But it's not just marginal voices. Manifestly unconstitutional legislation trying to withhold citizenship to the children of the undocumented is being discussed in Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Congress, per The Nation. Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Congress should be taking a hard look at the Fourteenth Amendment. And last week, formerly "moderate" Senator Lindsey Graham said on Fox News, "We should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child's automatically not a citizen. They come here to drop a child — it's called 'drop and leave.' ... That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons."
The persistence of the word "drop" is intentionally dehumanizing, and hints that Latina women are malicious breeding machines. The same impulse led to the leaking of the private details, including due dates of pregnant women, of allegedly illegal immigrants in Utah.
All this talk of tampering with birthright citizenship is just that, and the constitution is extremely unlikely to change. The rhetoric is simply meant to heat up the base, inflaming them against brown immigrants in general, and pregnant women in particular, in complete disregard of the facts. As Templeton points out, the children of undocumented women and men actually don't "anchor" their parents in most cases:
According to a 2010 report by Berkeley and UC, Davis, 88,000 immigrants who were legal permanent residents and parents of children with citizenship were deported between 1997 and 2007, the majority for misdemeanors. In many cases, children have no choice but to go with their parents, which means that "we are de facto deporting American citizens," points out New York Democratic Representative José Serrano. To restore some judicial discretion in deportation proceedings involving parents, Serrano is sponsoring the Child Citizenship Protection Act, a measure crafted by the New York–based Families for Freedom, an organization led by immigrant mothers fighting detention and deportation to keep their families intact.
Moreover, the 1996 welfare reform "disqualified most immigrants, including most legal permanent residents, from receiving almost all forms of public assistance and imposed a five-year waiting period on applications for assistance on all future immigrants." In Arizona, Templeton writes, the children of immigrants are actually more likely to live in homes with attributes that the right allegedly prizes: two parents, a father that works full time.
Another way in which all of this anti-immigrant hysteria doesn't track with the facts: as William Finnegan recently observed in The New Yorker, the number of would-be immigrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border is the lowest it's been in thirty-five years. And "violent crime, though rising in Mexico, has fallen this side of the border: in Southwestern border counties it has dropped more than thirty per cent in the past two decades." And yet he cites opinion polls showing that the number of people worried about immigration as a "very serious" problem has risen eleven percentage points in the last four years, irrespective of its actual effects. Wonder why?
Baby Baiting [The Nation]
Borderlines [New Yorker]
McConnell: Congress Ought To Take A Look At Altering Immigration Law [The Hill]
Lindsey Graham Leaps Into Wingnut Land, Wants To Repeal 14th Amendment [Crooks And Liars]