[ Reports of the forcible separation of parents and children at
the border by U.S. immigration authorities tell only part of the story
of the violence now being directed against hard-won norms of civil
society.] [] 




 Scott McLemee 
 June 8, 2018
Inside Higher Education

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 _ Reports of the forcible separation of parents and children at the
border by U.S. immigration authorities tell only part of the story of
the violence now being directed against hard-won norms of civil
society. _ 

 , credit: Beyond Borders Gazette 


REPORTS OF THE FORCIBLE SEPARATION of parents and children at the
border by U.S. immigration authorities tell only part of the story of
the violence now being directed against hard-won norms of civil

To continue doing harm to children once the risk of long-term damage
has been spelled out requires something worse than callous
indifference. It verges on the deliberate use of cruelty as a
deterrent. But suppose you manage to take as sincere the expressions
of concern dragged out of Jeff Sessions by an interviewer
[] earlier
this week. It is important nonetheless to consider everything the U.S.
attorney general says and does concerning immigration the in light of
the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which he has called "good for America

The act established quotas favoring immigrants of Northern European
origin while sharply restricting everyone else (or in the case of
Asians, excluding them entirely). It was created in response to what
Clarence Darrow called
[],[4] in sarcastic
but accurate terms, American "cries in the night of 'race suicide,'
'the rising tide of color,' 'the race is dying out at the top,' and
'torrents of degenerate and defective protoplasm.'"

The United Nations is free to call the detention of children
separately from their parents as a violation of human rights. The
administration doesn't care, and the AG only wants what's in the best
interests of the protoplasm.

Anchor Babies and the Challenge of Birthright Citizenship
By Leo R. Chavez
Stanford University Press, 120 pages
Paperback:  $12.99
October 10, 2017
ISBN: 9781503605091
E-book: 9781503605268

THOUGH NOT THE MAIN EMPHASIS by any means, Leo R. Chavez's _Anchor
Babies and the Challenge of Birthright Citizenship_ (Stanford
University Press []) makes
very clear how little has been added to the stock of anti-immigrant
rhetoric over the past 100 years. The eugenicist sentiments are
expressed less openly now, but multiculturalism as a refusal to
assimilate makes up the difference. "Although born among us," one
nativist complains about immigrant communities, "our general
instinctive feeling testifies that they are not wholly of us. So
separate has been their social life, due alike to their clannishness
and our reserve; so strong have been the ties of race and blood and
religion with them; so acute has been the jealousy of their spiritual
teachers to our institutions -- that we think of them, and speak of
them, as foreigners."

The diction probably gives away that this point was made in another
era -- the author was Francis A. Walker, superintendent of the United
States Census of 1870 and 1880 -- but the sentiment is as contemporary
as hysteria over the impending arrival of sharia law or the specter of
"a taco truck on every corner." The alarms raised about alien
fertility, criminality and disloyalty haven't really changed in
content, even if you don't hear it much about those of Irish or
Japanese descent now. A steep decline of birth rates among Latinas
over the past decade or so ("both immigrant and native born," Chavez
notes) ought to curtail demographic fearmongering, though it hasn't so

It is against this backdrop of seemingly perennial nativist obsessions
that Chavez depicts the fairly recent emergence of the "anchor baby"
trope, added to the _American Heritage Dictionary_ in 2011 with the
definition "a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that
grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially
such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship
for themselves and often other members of their family." This
definition was later tweaked to indicate that the expression is
derogatory. Among its earlier uses, in the mid-'00s, was to warn that
terrorists were coming to America to create sleeper cells disguised as
families. (That claim has long since receded back into the fever
swamps, along with all those Spanish-Arabic dictionaries supposedly
found in roundups of undocumented workers.)

More recently, the term serves as the basis for efforts to revise or
repeal the opening sentence of the 14th Amendment: "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." It sounds categorical enough. Born in the U.S.A. equals
citizen of the U.S.A. The immediate purpose when the amendment
following the Civil War was adopted was to establish the citizenship
and rights of former slaves, but Chavez shows that it had roots in
English common law. Anyone born in the kingdom was automatically a
subject of the king, with the exceptions of children of ambassadors,
diplomats and alien enemies, who were all under the same jurisdiction
as their parents.

"The child of an alien, if born in the country," an article in
the_ American Law Register_ in 1854 stated, "is as much a citizen as
the natural born child of a citizen." In 1898, the U.S. Supreme Court
made the continuity explicit by grounding the amendment in "the
ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the
territory, in the allegiance and under the protection of the country."
A few additions to the aforementioned common-law exceptions were made,
including "children of members of the Indian tribes owing direct
allegiance to their several tribes" -- a cunning instance of denying
citizenship by pretending to respect another's sovereignty.

Recent efforts to get around the amendment's codification of
birthright citizenship stress the reference to claimants being
"subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States, on the grounds
that the parents, as noncitizens, are not so subject. No more than a
few seconds of thought are needed to see that this interpretation of
the phrase, if valid, would negate the whole force of the amendment --
something it really does seem would have been noticed while it was
being ratified, or at least when it came up in Supreme Court
deliberations for the first time. A foreign national residing on U.S.
soil is "subject to the jurisdiction thereof," in the words of the
amendment, which goes on to specify that no state can "deprive any
person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor
deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the
laws." Note the words "any person," used twice -- not "any citizen."

"THE LIFE OF THE NATION should be a life examined," writes Chavez,
and the attempt to delegitimize or whittle away at the principle of
birthright citizenship merits the scrutiny of both its logic and its

The effect of the "anchor baby" slur is to define a sector of the
population Chavez calls "suspect citizens." Identified as unworthy of
the rights enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, they are characterized
as "a threat to the nation," making them plausible if not inevitable
scapegoats due to an accident of birth -- at the hands of "deserving
citizens" who have earned their place by virtue of having selected the
right parents.

Book author LEO R. CHAVEZ []
is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.
He is the author of _The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants,
Citizens, and the Nation_ (Stanford, 2008, 2013), among other books.

_[Essayist Scott McLemee
[] reviews books
weekly for Inside Higher Education . His reviews, essays, and
interviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post,
The Boston Globe, The Nation, Newsday, Bookforum, The Common Review,
and numerous other publications.]_

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