Amnesty was a mistake for many reasons. The 1987 policy sought to right a wrong that did not sit well with the class of people it intended to help, the economy, the voters, and even President Reagan. It was, in hindsight, a disaster.
Out of the approximately 6 million that it intended to assimilate, only 2.9 million acquiesced because of distrust of the federal government, fraud by many claiming to give assistance, and applicants themselves who failed to meet the basic requirements that would give them legal status in the U.S. And yet out of that group of people, children were born and are now legal voting US Citizens.
And although the intent was there, the basic necessity of the VISA availability was not, and it never was intended to be made available. It was a way to have people apply, wait and wait and wait, while they remained in the U.S. working, paying taxes, and having children. The quotas that were implemented against 4 countries were done so that immigrants already here, from these 4 nations, could assimilate into the U.S.; a visa quota, or visa availability was set up for these nations at a slow rate to make certain they became full Americans, or maybe never at all as is in the case of Mexico. If one looks at the Visa Bulletin, the expected wait for a Visa is at least 15 years if not more. Applications filed during the amnesty period of 1987 have become available only recently.
Fast forward to 1999 and 2001 where the Federal government once again promised immigration reform only this time, the number of undocumeted people grew to almost 9 million. We know this number because studies use the “residual method” to estimate the unauthorized immigrant population of the USA. With this method, the known number of legal immigrants to the United States is subtracted from the reported U.S. Census number of self-proclaimed foreign born people to obtain the total, unauthorized immigrant (residual) population. It is also the preferred method used by the US Department of Homeland Security and US Census Bureau.
During the period of 1999-2000, the federal government risked a new attempt at affecting immigration, after all the economy was doing well and there was an overflow of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. But instead of relaxing the quotas to relieve the problem, the federal government once again issued a new method by which people could apply for immigration relief, to give hope to those having waited almost 10 years for their visa. Except once again, the wait was prolonged and there was no relief in sight; hence, people were once again fooled into believing that this new reform would place them on a fast track to an application filed almost 10 years ago.
The business sector was not focused on developing a well-educated labor pool, and instead sought qualified candidates from abroad. Both the IT and energy sectors are notorious for this immediate need even at present time. In the meantime, young children were being born to those patiently waiting for their visas to become current.
Following the road of immigration reform, we see a pattern. Make a promise, break it, blame the other side, wait for an election year for President and repeat. It happens every 10 years when politicians promise to reform immigration law, they make a few adjustments that produce a new application and a new way for people to attempt legalization, but not more visas. So regardless of how many regulations are amended and how many forms are created, if visas are not available, there is no way for these people to legalize their status.
And now, these children born on U.S. soil, caught in the middle of this ping pong game, are being told that they are not US Citizens and are “anchor babies,” weighing down the U.S. and the economy. Rather than creating an opportunity to win their allegiance and their vote, the GOP seeks to discredit them, by using derogatory names to expunge their importance in this emerging US population.
These name calling politicians see the new wave as a replacement of the old party politics which is why their slogans claim to make “America Great Again,” as is the case with Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP. Fear slogans like Trump’s are stating that this new group of voters, comprised of young Latinos, cannot and will not help the U.S. economy and instead will sink America. And in part it could be true, not because they are not U.S. Citizens but because this group is falling behind in education and voting turnout among Latinos is dismal. Despite the fact that there are already more than 25 million of Latinos who could be voting in a presidential election, voter turn out is low. These “anchor babies,” as they are termed, hold the key to America’s future. They are termed anchors, not because they are a means to secure a method of adjusting their parents to legal status, but because they will not advance in the U.S. should they remain uneducated and complacent in this Presidential race.
But let’s not be naïve about why this term it’s being used. This is a means to de-legitimize natural born citizens so we can talk about them as objects, not as full American citizens with full constitutional rights. We wouldn’t be talking about a “mass deportation” for a class of citizens, unless we called them something other than American citizens. This term “anchor baby” is an attempt to de-humanize them by removing any religious moral compass from their legal status. We pride ourselves in being a Judeo/Christian nation with moral values, except when we talk about these Christian American babies, or American children, who happened to have been born to undocumented parents.
But rather than see the anger in the statement currently being used by these presidential candidates, who are inexperienced in immigration law and the Latino community (whom they are particularly singling out), these young voters who were born while the parents await for the availability of visas – and now are voting-age adults – should use this an opportunity to advance themselves by voting and educating themselves.
Republican candidates should be careful in how they spew a message of hate, because more than likely it will backfire. It will create a momentum that has the capacity to increase voter participation, but not in the favor of the GOP. If we look at the numbers from 1987 to now and assess how many “anchor babies” or U.S. children of undocumented parents, are now able to vote, the “sleeping giant” number is sufficient to swing the Presidential election. By the time we get to the general election, GOP candidates will need to regroup and convince these voters, that were called unnecessary dead weight, to vote for the GOP candidate in order to win the election. By that time, it might be too late, and more than likely this sole term, “anchor baby,” will have sunk not only the GOP’s hope of winning the White House for the next 20 years, but the GOP political party as well.
Linda Vega is a former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas in Austin and the George Washington Law School in D.C. She worked for The Department of Labor, and she is currently in private practice at THE VEGA LAW FIRM. Her areas of expertise are in Immigration and Labor/Employment-Labor Law. In 2012, Linda Vega was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Family Practice Residency Advisory Committee. Linda Vega is The Founder of Latinos Ready to Vote and a former Candidate for the U.S. Senate from Texas. @