At the risk of turning DailyKos into US Weekly, a famous foreign actress is giving birth soon! Penelope Cruz, famous for her beauty, her sensuous roles and her intriguing relationships with her Hollywood co-stars, has attracted a significant amount of tabloid attention on account of her pregnancy. But she's catching attention elsewhere as well: she has decided to give birth in the United States--prompting Fox News Latino (in a story since removed from the site) to claim that she was "having an anchor baby." Turns out that Fox News even writes its Latino site from the perspective of a white Tea Party activist. But it's not just that the term is offensive. In Penelope's case, it's absolutely wrong.
The term "anchor baby" originates in the notion that undocumented immigrants seek specifically to have children born in the United States. The logic goes that those children will automatically be citizens because of the birthright citizenship clause in the 14th amendment. As citizens, they cannot be deported, nor, supposedly, would their parents be able to be deported because it would be considered inhumane to separate the parents from the child. The desire to remove this "loophole" that prevents deportation is a significant motivator for the Dred Scott caucus of the Republican Party to make noise about repealing the birthright citizenship provision of the 14th amendment.
The fact that Republicans would consider modification of the 14th amendment as something that would stem the flow of undocumented people into this country demonstrates, however, that they lack intelligence or human compassion--or both. Let us suppose, after all, that birthright citizenship were repealed, and that children of undocumented immigrants were themselves not citizens and also undocumented. These Republicans seem to believe either that deporting children from the only home they have ever known is moral, or they think that people who come to this country willing to mow lawns and clean houses for low wages somehow will stop coming if their children are no longer allowed to be citizens. This line of thinking, of course, highly undervalues the role that utter economic despair and risk of starvation can play in the decision to emigrate.
Needless to say, neither of these factors concern a very wealthy celebrity actress like Penelope Cruz. Inasmuch as anyone could be claimed to be distorting the will of the 14th amendment, it would be "birth tourists" like her: wealthy foreign nationals who fly to the United States specifically to have their child born there to be able to one day take advantage of the rights of citizenship of the United States, and then jet-set back home shortly thereafter.
Americans should not rebuke Penelope Cruz for doing so. Rather, we should be proud that the idea of citizenship in the United States is such a compelling attraction that world-famous people are willing to fly to this country and pay for our state-of-the-art medical services just for the privilege. The people that genuinely deserve a rebuke are the crew at Fox News Latino--first, for the audacity of equating Penelope's choice to that of undocumented immigrants in a way that negatively stereotypes its own target audience. And second, for not quite realizing that if her name were Penelope St. Croix and she came from the equally Caucasian country across the Pyrenees, nobody would bat an eye.
I did mention that Penelope Cruz is from Spain, right?