MCALLEN, RGV – Presidential candidate Jeb Bush has dismissed criticism of his use of the term “anchor babies” and reaffirmed his commitment to the 14th Amendment.

At a news conference in McAllen on Monday, Bush was asked if using the term “anchor baby” would depress support in Hispanic communities. He responded that with his background and life experience he is immersed in the immigrant experience.

“This is ludicrous for the Clinton campaign and others to suggest that somehow I am using a derogatory term. What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed, where there is organized efforts, and, frankly, it is more related towards Asian people coming into our country, having children, in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, of birthright citizenship,” Bush said.

Juanita Valdez-Cox
Juanita Valdez-Cox

“I support the 14th Amendment. Nothing about what I have said should be viewed as derogatory towards immigrants at all. This is all how politics plays. And, by the way, I think we need to take a step back and chill out a little bit as it relates to the political correctness, that somehow you have to be scolded every time you say something. It is not fair to be taken out of context – that is the nature of politics. But, I just don’t feel this is appropriate.”

The term “anchor babies” has been used to describe mothers from other countries who come to the U.S. to give birth. Under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution a baby born in the country receives automatic citizenship. Such mothers can later apply to live in the U.S. legally because they have a U.S. born child. Bush first used the term last Thursday during a radio interview. He called for “greater enforcement” to address the issue of “anchor babies, as they’re described.”

Bush was peppered with questions about the term “anchor babies,” both in English and Spanish. He answered in both languages. “I just said I was focusing on a specific, targeted kind of case where people were organizing to bring pregnant women into the country, with them having children, with the children to become citizens. That is fraud,” Bush responded. “And that is what we need to do. We need to enforce the law. We need to create a more secure border, not just at the border but across the spectrum. I mean, there are 40 percent of the people that come here that are here illegally today that came with a legal visa. Enforcing the immigration laws of our country needs to be a high priority.”

When quizzed again, Bush said to a reporter, “How will you refer to them? You give me the name. This is so ridiculous. Give me the name you want me to use and I will use it.”

The news conference was held at Palenque Grill in McAllen.

One local community leader upset with Bush’s use of the term “anchor babies” is Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of Unión del Pueblo Entero. Valdez-Cox issued this statement about the use of the term and Bush’s visit to the Valley:

Today, Jeb Bush is visiting our home, the Rio Grande Valley, located along the Texas-Mexico border, to meet with local officials about immigration issues. But his recent derogatory comments against U.S. citizen children born to undocumented mothers mean that he is stepping into the middle of Texas’ controversial practice of denying birth certificates to those same children.

Anyone who aspires to be the leader of this nation should embody our nation’s ideal that we are all created equal. Instead, Jeb Bush has embraced hateful and harmful rhetoric toward immigrant mothers and children.

Bush recently said he believes in the need for more enforcement against undocumented parents who have children born in the U.S., and used a derogatory term to refer to such babies. His call for enforcement against the undocumented mothers of U.S. citizen children leaves us wondering what such a crack-down would look like in practice.

Would he follow the lead of the State of Texas and deny birth certificates to U.S. citizen children born to undocumented mothers? Would he attempt to restrict the rights of these children in order to punish their parents for coming to the U.S. with the desire to give their family a better life? Would he seek to deport immigrant parents for believing that this nation is a nation of promise, where they can give their children the chance to follow their dreams?

Texas is creating a population of undocumented United States citizens. Texas has recently begun the practice of denying birth certificates to US citizen children born to undocumented parents who cannot produce certain documents, ones that are inaccessible to many undocumented immigrants.

Through this practice, Texas is creating citizens in limbo. These children and their parents face a myriad of problems: the inability for the children to travel freely within their country across Border Patrol checkpoints or to travel back into the country; the possibility of losing Medicaid and other health benefits to which they are entitled; the prospect of losing housing benefits (Section 8) to which they are entitled; the children can’t be added to their parent’s income tax, which means they wouldn’t get the child tax credit, a tax relief the families need to provide a better quality of life to their children. Put simply, these children are U.S. citizens according to the Constitution, and they are entitled to receive their birth certificates.

La Unión del Pueblo Entero, the organization that I head, has joined a lawsuit led by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and South Texas Civil Rights Project, to end this discriminatory and illegal practice. All children in the lawsuit are United States citizens by birth. They were all born in hospitals in South Texas and have the hospital documents to prove it. In some cases, they have Social Security numbers. They are entitled to a birth certificate just as much as any other child born on American soil. These children should not be denied a birth certificate on the basis of their parents’ immigration status. With this lawsuit, we will defend the rights of these children and force the State of Texas to end this discriminatory practice.

Jeb Bush should learn from his visit to the Rio Grande Valley, a region where immigration is celebrated and families are defended. We are a community of immigrants. When Central American refugees came in through our community last summer, the Valley banded together to provide a warm welcome and a helping hand as they passed through our region on their journey to reunite with family up north. Mr. Bush should learn from the example of the Rio Grande Valley and embrace the rights and humanity of all Americans, immigrant or citizen, and commit himself to protecting the rights of U.S. citizen children, regardless of the immigration status of their parents.