Anchor Babies Exist, But Probably Not Very Many of Them

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Do “anchor babies” exist? Or are they just a pernicious myth invented by the anti-immigration right? The LA Times sent reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske to Rio Grande City in Texas to check things out:

In this county in the heart of the impoverished Rio Grande Valley, so-called anchor babies have been delivered for decades, some to women who have already settled in Texas, others to those who crossed the river expressly to give birth on U.S. soil. “About six months ago I got one who was literally still wet from the river,” [Dr. Rolando] Guerrero said.

….Just how many Mexican mothers come to give birth to the babies and the cost of caring for them are unclear. “They do come on purpose,” said Thalia Munoz, chief executive of Starr County Memorial. “We have to absorb the costs….It’s a persistent problem. It’s a fact: They come over here for the anchor baby, they come over for the benefits.”

….The doctors said they saw fewer women coming to have babies after Texas officials ordered a surge of law enforcement and National Guard troops to the border last summer in response to an influx of Central American immigrants….But since then, “slowly, it’s been going back up,” Guerrero said.

….At Starr County Memorial, most of the mothers the doctors see do not cross intentionally to give birth, they said — they were already living on the U.S. side of the border with families of mixed status. “I have families where I’ve delivered three or four” U.S.-born babies, Guerrero said.

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever get a firm handle on how common this phenomenon is. But if the evidence of this story is typical, we can say that (a) anchor babies certainly exist, but (b) probably not in very large numbers. That’s not likely to satisfy anyone, but sometimes life is like that.

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