Political debates always seem to create their own shorthand for much more complicated topics. Often, the best PR strategy is to get out in front of an issue with a term the public — on both sides — is willing to use in debate … even if they are decrying its use. Recently, a term popular in the immigration debate has been “anchor baby.”
Opponents use the term to describe illegal immigrants who can’t be deported because their children were born in the USA. They use it in its pejorative sense as if the parents mainly — or only — had children so they can stay in the United States.
Proponents of immigration despise the term, and many have come out against its use. Recently, in a conversation with the media, presidential candidate Donald Trump was asked to stop using the term. He declined in typically blunt Trump fashion.
Now so-called “anchor babies” are fighting back. They argue they were born here and raised here. They are Americans. And, according to the 14th Amendment, they are. With this argument well in hand, anchor babies are entering the political conversation. They are not calling for people to stop using the term they find offensive. They are asking people to use another term altogether, they say applies just as much or, to their thinking, very much more: legal American citizen.
It’s a fight that will be won in hearts and minds, much like the battles for civil rights, and gay rights have been waged. The courts will likely eventually have a say as well. There is no shortage of political will to challenge the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment protecting the offspring of illegal immigrants and, thus, the immigrants themselves.
That battle, brutal as it is likely to be, will be waged with words more than anything else. Effective public relations will win this day. Even if there currently is some political will to challenge the status quo on this issue, there will be no challenge if the opposition to any change is loud and present in any debate. The proponents of a better immigration policy in this country are catching onto this, so the hardliners find it more difficult to connect to receptive ears in positions of power.
But trends can change. A new voice, call it the unsilent minority, is emerging. The legal immigrant who wants to see undocumented workers complete the same process they went through, even if it’s just to get a work visa. That battle, too, will be won with words, helping ideas resonate in minds and hearts so they become the law of the land.