Skip to Content

Programs:

IPC In The News

The first new edition of the American Heritage Dictionary in 10 years contained 10,000 new entries -- and one of them in particular caused a flurry of protest among immigrant and Latino advocates.

The fifth edition of the dictionary defined the term "anchor baby" as "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."

The original definition did not include any indication that the phrase is offensive, as it does for other words.

Immigration Impact, a group that that advocates for the rights of immigrants, first covered the word's inclusion on its blog on Dec. 2 and pressed for a change that would reflect the "poisonous and derogatory nature of the term."

After reading the post, the executive editor of the dictionary, Steve Kleinedler, agreed that the definition needed to change.

The current wording was added to the online dictionary on Monday. It flags the word as "offensive" and defines "anchor baby" as being "used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child's birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother's or other relatives' chances of securing eventual citizenship."

Kleinedler told Colorlines, a blog that reports on issues of race, ethnicity and social justice, that changing the word was more about accuracy than outrage.

"Personally, this was not a reaction that we have to fix it because people are angry," Kleinedler told Colorlines. "We fixed it because we were wrong. And I, as the executive editor, acknowledge the fact that this was an error and I take responsibility for that."

Read more...
CNN | 12/08/11

Recently, controversy erupted over the American Heritage dictionary’s definition of “anchor baby” as a neutral term. Jorge Rivas gave us an overview earlier this week. The act prompted immigrant rights advocates to reach out for institutional change. Here’s how the dictionary’s new edition originally defined “anchor baby:”

Anchor Baby, n. 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.”

Mary Giovagnoli, the Director of the Immigration Policy Center pushed back on the term’s definition, acknowledging that it’s politically loaded language and not neutral. She’s right. The term is racially charged and hurtful, much like the term “illegal immigrant,” which Giovagnoli ironically did use in her piece. It’s no surprise that dehumanizing and criminalizing people by describing them as “illegal immigrants” has paved the way for “anchor baby,” which suggests that supposedly “illicit” people who have families and settle down are conniving and dangerous. 

Read more...
Colorlines | 12/07/11

The U.S. Supreme Court will meet later this week to decide whether the justices will hear Arizona's case with the Department of Justice over its stringent anti-immigration law.

Bottom of Form

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, petitioned the high court in August to take its case in an effort to get an early injunction blocking the law's more onerous provisions overturned.

Expectations that the justices take Grand Canyon State's case are low. There are pending cases from the Justice Department challenging Arizona-style anti-immigration laws in other states and there has yet to be a split among the appellate courts that the high court needs to address.

But the fact that Arizona has already reached a petition stage is a sign that an immigration battle could end up on the Supreme Court docket in the near future. A case over these new laws, which grant local police power to detain and check the immigration status of anyone suspected of being in the country without authorization, would be new terrain for the Supreme Court.

Several years ago, states never attempted to pass such tough immigration laws, says Ben Winograd of the American Immigration Council Legal Action Center.

Can-You-Top-This-Conservatism Laws

Now, states seem like they are trying to compete with one another to devise the toughest law to drive out largely Hispanic immigrant population. This can be attributed in part to Kris W. Kobach, an Ivy League-educated constitutional lawyer who is currently serving as Kansas' Republican secretary of state and is of counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute.

He is the brain behind Arizona's anti-immigration law, SB1070, and also a hand in Alabama's HB56, considered one of the harshest anti-immigration laws in the nation.

Such laws are now in six states, including Utah, South Carolina, Indiana and Georgia.

Read more...
International Business Times | 12/06/11

The American Heritage Dictionary has added "offensive" to the definition of "anchor baby" in the dictionary after criticism from Latino groups.

Immigrationimpact.com, a project of the nonprofit American Immigration Council, questioned the inclusion of the "anchor baby" definition. On their website, they describe the new definition as "one that was crafted to reflect more accurately just how artificial a term it really is."

The online version of the American Heritage Dictionary now defines "anchor baby" as:

"Offensive Used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child's birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother's or other relatives' chances of securing eventual citizenship..."

In January, lawmakers in Washington pushed to change the law so babies born to illegal immigrants could no longer be given automatic citizenship.

Former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce paved the way for Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement law supported the legislation in a bill he proposed in 2010.

In May, when CBS 5 Investigates showed Pearce an email referring to "anchor babies" that he forwarded, he said he didn't find anything wrong with the language.

"It's somebody's opinion … What they're trying to say is it's wrong, and I agree with them. It's wrong," said Pearce.

Read more...
KPHO Phoenix | 12/06/11

The Houghton Mifflin publishing company recently released the fifth edition of the New American Heritage Dictionary with 10,000 new words—including the term “anchor baby.” The dictionary offers a matter-of-fact definition for a term many consider to be a racist and deliberate effort to dehumanize immigrant children.

Here’s how the dictionary’s new edition defines “anchor baby:”

“Anchor Baby, n. 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.”

Steve Kleinedler, the executive editor, was well aware “anchor baby” is used as a pejorative term. “The trick is to define them objectively without taking sides and just presenting what it is,” Kleinedler said in an interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

“Anchor baby is definitely a very charged, politically charged word,” Kleinedler said before going on to say the term “falls into a gray area where we felt it was better just to state what it was, and then people can filter their own life experiences through the word and judgments on it as they see fit.”

The New American Heritage Dictionary’s “anchor baby” definition is 41 words long but the first sentence in Wikipedia’s definition at just 29 words manages to provide a similar definition with a disclaimer that the word is indeed offensive. Wikipedia.com definition with more context:

“Anchor baby” is a pejorative term for a child born in the United States to immigrant parents, who, as an American citizen, supposedly can later facilitate immigration for relatives.” [29 words]

Read more...
Colorlines | 12/05/11

Steven Kleinedler, executive director of the American Heritage Dictionary, took note when Immigration Policy Center criticized its definition of "anchor baby."

 Kleinedler says American heritage will tweak the definition of the phrase for the third printing of the dictionary's Fifth Edition by noting that it is an offensive and derogatory term. He acknowledges that it "should have been done in the first place."

 He wrote on New Times' initial blog post the other day that he'd been in contact with the executive director of the Immigration Policy Center "to discuss her very valid points" and that "a revision to the definition is in order, and the editorial staff and I are working on this."

"When I first read the blog post at Immigration Impact, I knew immediately that a revision would be order," Kleinedler says. "I didn't need anyone to convince me. It was an obvious error that needed to be rectified, and so that is what we did."

 The revised definition:

n. Offensive Used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child's birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother's or other relatives' chances of securing eventual citizenship.

 The original definition:

n. 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.

 Immigration Policy Center director Mary Giovagnoli first blogged at immigrationimpact.com criticizing the definition of "anchor baby."

Read more...
Phoenix New Times | 12/05/11

The "anchor baby" entry in the American Heritage Dictionary is drawing charges from an immigrant advocacy group that it is offensive.

Updated at 4:29 p.m. ET:

The American Heritage Dictionary officially changed its definition of the phrase "anchor baby" on Monday, reflecting that it considers the phrase to be "offensive."

In an interview Monday, dictionary Executive Editor Steven Kleinedler said the phrase was one of the 10,000 new words and phrases added to the fifth edition – the first revision of the dictionary in a decade – and that the lack of an offensive disclaimer was an oversight.

Kleinedler said he immediately realized the error when he saw Friday's blog post by Immigration Impact.

"When we saw the post, we looked at (the definition) and said 'They are completely right, we should change it,'" Kleinedler said. "This is a change that needs to be made."

The new definition, which will be included in the online dictionary and the next printing of the print edition, says the phrase is used "as a disparaging term."

Original post:

An immigrant advocacy group says editors of the American Heritage Dictionary have agreed to revise a recently added entry "anchor baby" to note that it is a derogatory or offensive phrase.

Use of the term is highly sensitive in the politically charged debate over immigration.

Immigration opponents such as Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and others use the phrase to describe children born in the USA to illegal immigrant parents. Those children are granted automatic U.S. citizenship, and King has filed legislation that would stop the practice.

Civil rights groups have long derided the phrase, saying it dehumanizes those children and poisons the immigration debate.

Read more...
USA Today | 12/05/11

WASHINGTON -- The idea that prospective immigrants simply wait their turn to enter the U.S. legally, as advocates of Alabama's immigration law suggest, would apply to only a few because the legal paths for entering the country permanently are selective, limited and backlogged.

There are 4.7 million people from around the world already in line waiting for a chance to move in, according to the latest figures from the U.S. State Department. And the law, as set out in the Immigration and Nationality Act, does not let just anyone get in line.

 The law is specific about who is allowed in on a permanent basis, coinciding with four general objectives of federal immigration policy: to reunite families, attract workers with special skills, increase diversity from countries that don't usually have high numbers of immigrants to the U.S., and protect people who are fleeing persecution in their home countries.

 If someone wants to immigrate permanently, they have to fall into one of those four categories. Even then, the wait can last years or decades. For example, applications filed by Mexican unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens before April 1993 are the ones being considered now, according to a monthly update from the State Department.

 In other words, the proposal that illegal immigrants should have just waited for their turn is not even possible.

 "When there is no line to get into, those are times when people feel they don't have options," said Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center and former associate chief counsel for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

 There are 12.6 million legal permanent residents currently living in the United States plus millions more who have long since become naturalized citizens.

Read more...
Birmingham News | 12/04/11

Newt Gingrich continued his full-throttle emphasis on immigration on Thursday in Iowa, countering opponents who have accused him of embracing amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Gingrich signed a pledge to build a fence along the entire 2,000-mile stretch between Mexico and the United States by the end of 2013.

Building the fence could cost taxpayers billions of dollars, not including annual maintenance expenses. But Gingrich told The Des Moines Register in an interview that those costs could be trimmed as much as 95 percent by simply eliminating all federal regulations for the fence’s construction.

He did not explain how he arrived at that estimate and his staff was unable to pinpoint the information Thursday.

“Remember, we built the Pentagon for almost nothing because we didn’t go through all the modern baloney,” Gingrich said.

Such federal regulations are intended to protect water quality, prevent ground pollution and ensure worker safety — all items generally seen as critical to human health.

Several immigration reform advocates said Thursday that while they agree with Gingrich that action is needed, they doubt his cost-saving ideas and whether such a fence would be effective.

A better idea would be to invest the billions of dollars in increased security and screening at the nation’s ports of entry, where the majority of illegal immigration and drug smuggling occurs, said William Moore, a spokesman for the Texas Border Coalition. The nonpartisan group of mayors and local officials represents more than 6 million people living along the border.

Moore also contends that building the fence would be difficult if not impossible because of the region’s harsh landscape. Because of flood plains, some U.S. farmers and their homes would likely be on the Mexican side of the fence, creating numerous safety and property rights issues, he noted.

Read more...
Des Moines Register | 12/02/11

Some right-wing critics of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich have it all wrong when they claim that his immigration plan is "amnesty" -- the code word for a path to citizenship.

Others, however, have pegged it right. The Gingrich plan would be closer to indentured servitude or semi-serfdom.

Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform, described the Gingrich plan as a "modern-day form of slavery." The plan, he said, is an "effort to create a stratified labor force that provides wealthy employers with a way to get employees at below-market rates."

Pro-immigration groups agree. Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, says that the Gingrich plan "virtually guarantees that we create second-class status for workers and their families -- lawful, but with no real rights."

That some are calling the Gingrich plan "humane" shows just how far this country has shifted on immigration.

The core of the Gingrich plan is privatization and expansion of the nation's guest worker program. A new path to citizenship is not part of the Gingrich plan at all.

Certainly, Gingrich has identified a real problem that cries out for solution: Current visa quotas are much lower than demand for workers.

Legal visas are limited to 66,000 a year for unskilled nonagricultural workers (H-2B); to 65,000 for high-skilled workers (H-1B) That's a joke. The U.S. government issued only 150,000 visas for farmworkers (H-1A) in 2009, a small fraction of the estimated 1.5 million foreign farmworkers in the United States.

But rather than fix that system, the Gingrich plan is to throw open the floodgates for employers to hire, on an unlimited basis, workers from other countries.

Read more...
Sacramento Bee | 12/02/11