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"Anchor baby" term too misleading and insulting to use

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/27/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 772 times Debate No: 79103
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




The term "anchor baby" is misleading, insulting, and should not be used. Politicians and political commentators routinely use this word without defining it. In context, it can mean various things, including "first generation citizen", "any child of an immigrant", "any child of an undocumented immigrant", "citizen child of an undocumented immigrant". Therefore, it's misleading.

It is insulting, because it is referring to a "baby" - an infant or young child - which did not choose the conditions of it's birth. Further, it is implying that that these children are born inferior to others.

It should not be used for those reasons, possibly among others.

For a definition of "anchor baby", since it should not be used, I will argue there is a lack of any standard definition. However, should a definition be required, I propose Oxford dictionary:

"Used to refer to a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country which has birthright citizenship, especially when viewed as providing an advantage to family members seeking to secure citizenship or legal residency."

Alternate definitions, especially if supported by actual usage, are welcome.

I define "too [be used]" as meaning that it is meant to create it's own meaning, rather than convey objective meaning. In other words, the primary purpose of the choice in words is to create a plea to emotion. Obviously, any word of phrase that exists "can be used", and I won't debate otherwise.

Pro is agreement that the word is excessively misleading or insulting to be used in absence of a plea to emotion. Con is that it is not misleading or insulting, and it's use is appropriate.

Note: This is my first debate proposal.


Hello. Thanks for the debate question.

Here are my counter proposals:

1. Is the term anchor baby misleading?
- I agree that in some situations the speaker who uses this phrase may not define it completely, however, it most instances the meaning can be derived from the surrounding context of the speech. For example, if in a debate about illegal immigration this word is used, then we can infer that the speaker is talking about babies of illegal immigrants and not babies of legal immigrants. If the topic is about parents who want to gain visas through petition of a child working in the states, then the term is obviously used to refer to a child who legally immigrated. It is up to the speaker to make the words clear, but the listeners can pick up on the intended meaning by using the overall context of the speech.

2. Is the term anchor baby insulting?
- Insult regarding words is a subjective experience, so it's hard to see how this can be said to be insulting without specifying the exact person involved. For example, one of the worst words you can use is the word n****r (I don't know if the website allows me to post that word here so I censored it) and many people get insulted when called that. Yet a multitude of rap stars use it almost in every sentence without triggering an insulting reaction. In a more recent example, a black comedian was using the word so much on stage that his mic was cut, and this was in front of black audience who did not appreciate it.[1] On the following night he used it on a more receptive audience who applauded him. Similarly, anchor baby may or may not be insulting, but we don't really know. As a person who comes from a third world country, the common term here for children who petition parents is "ticket" as in "you're my ticket out of this dump." I do not find the word insulting and have been called by it numerous times. When we start policing language, it becomes really troublesome, such as what is happening in the West now where even the terms "master" is being banned in a school because some people might be intimidated by it[2]. In Sweden, the words "him and her" are not allowed in school because it is sexist[3], and so on.


3. Is the term anchor baby appropriate?
- If it is not appropriate then another, less insulting term would be needed, and so far no one has arrived at a term acceptable to everyone. However, remember that this word is used to refer to a very uncomfortable situation in which a baby (or an adult) is used as a hook in order to gain entry to a much more prosperous country, so whatever word you substitute won't really change the nature of the situation; i.e. it will still refer to this very uncomfortable reality of babies (or adults) being used as a means to an end. So in the end it's not really the word itself but rather the nature of the phenomenon being described that is uncomfortable to the listeners, and I doubt making up a new word to replace anchor baby would make much a difference.

Debate Round No. 1


1. To claim that it only applies to children specifically of illegal immigrants is disingenuous, even within context. The word more than implies it is specifically only women who come within the U.S. to have a child so the child gains citizenship. You are introducing another fuzzy term, "illegal immigrants", to say "anchor babies" is not fuzzy. "Illegal immigrant" could refer to legal residents that aren't citizens, people here legally without valid documentation (e.g. they face a fine, but can not be deported), those who entered illegally but can remain due to starting the legal process, or those who entered illegally and have not initiated the legal immigration process. In addition, it can mean those of the last group, but limited to only those who entered specifically to give birth.

The difference between the different standard for "illegal immigrant" just by itself, changes the claims for the number of "achor babies" from 720,000 per year to 8,000, and even lower, with all of them being no more right or wrong.

It's not clear in most contexts whether it only applies to **babies** or people in general (born in whatever circumstances). Are people NOT babies "anchor babies"? That changes the number from (assuming a "baby" is 2 or younger), from 16,000 total people, to all undocumented residents of approximately 14 million (not counting tourists).

This is a change of 87,500%, which the listener supposedly is supposed to get from context. Without a set definition for any of these issues, it becomes clear the purpose of using the term is not so the listener will understand these sweeping issues, rather it is so the listener can use their own standard and ignore the issues. It is intentionally vague, as an appeal to emotion.

2. While I agree the insultiness of a term is subjective - hence, my spellcheck have no clue about the word insultiness. Therefore, the only ones to determine whether a word is insulting are those it is applied. to. In this case, it is infants. I'm unable to find any polls among immigrants (let along those born to "illegal immigrants"), but I very seriously doubt they would find it to be a neutral or positive term. Indeed, it is universally or nearly universally used only by those who want to provide a negative connotation to infants, because of their birth condition.

3. There are several alternative phrases. "Birth tourism/tourists". "Immigrant children." "First generation citizens". "Natural born citizens". The only difficulty in finding an alternative, is that it is either too broad or too narrow. When too broad (i.e. "1st generation citizen"), it makes the vagueness too obvious, and looses its negativity. Too narrow (i.e. "birth tourists"), and it only applies to a handful of people. It is typically not used to explore complex immigration policy, but to simplify it to practical uselessness. To put it simply, the term is specifically designed to be a plea to emotion.


Counter Arguments:

1. Is the term anchor baby misleading?

"To claim that it only applies to children specifically of illegal immigrants is disingenuous, even within context. The word more than implies it is specifically only women who come within the U.S. to have a child so the child gains citizenship."

First of all, I never mentioned that the term anchor baby only applied to the children of illegal immigrants. I used that as an example in the context of say an illegal immigration debate, which I then followed up with another example about children who are legally there petitioning their parents (although I admit that the second example was poorly worded).

I reiterate that the word anchor baby is not misleading when used today since the definition itself is quite clear as you yourself stated in round one. Here's one from Merriam-Webster:

(noun) : a baby born in the United States to non-citizen parents; esp.: a baby whose U.S. citizenship potentially provides a means to citizenship for other family members.

When you are a foreign national and want to apply for a US citizenship, or if you are a foreign national and want your child to become a US citizen, you need to go through the proper channels, which could take months or years and not even guarantee that you pass. Naturally, others want to find a method with a higher chance of success, hence they use the jus soli policy and go to the states (either legally or illegally) and give birth there, guaranteeing that the baby is born a citizen with all the rights and privileges accorded. The baby is then called an anchor baby. Anchor baby does not refer to just any baby, it refers only to babies of non-citizen parents who gave birth in the states which include tourists, temporary residents, those with working permits, border crossers, and so on. Any use of the word in these circumstances is valid, as long as the parents are non-citizens and give birth in the states. I know that there are many types of "non-citizen" persons, and as I said in round 1 it is then up to what kind of context the word "non-citizien" is being used, but regardless of which type of non-citizen parents are involved, the word anchor baby still applies to their child if they gave birth in the US.

2. Is the word anchor baby insulting
- I don't think the word is aimed so much at the baby, but rather more as a way to hit back at the parents who are using the jus soli policy as a loophole to prevent having to apply for proper papers at the embassy. Babies don't have the mental capacity to understand the word itself, much less be insulted by it. It could be a different matter once the child grows up (if we still consider adults as anchor babies), but I argue that this word's primary purpose when used in immigration debates is a way to pressure the government to address the loophole, and not just as a random putdown like the word "idiot".

Regardless, I fail to see that changing or censoring a word based on insult alone is a good idea. For example, the word "idiot" or "moron" is almost 100% pure insult with no other subject matter in the background, but no one is seriously advocating that we stop using them. A word will die it's natural death when it has outlived its usefulness. I also think that the word "anchor baby" will eventually die once the immigration policies of the US has become satisfactory for the majority of its citizens, but as of the moment a lot of people are pushing for change, hence "anchor baby" is so popular. It will die eventually, but forcing it to die before its time will only make things worse.

3. Is the word anchor baby appropriate?
- As you said, some words are too narrow, and some are too broad as a substitute for anchor baby, so why not leave it as it is? Now I do agree with you that the word is emotionally charged, but it's not the word but the situation behind it that causes so much friction in people. There are many US citizens that are deeply unsatisfied with the current immigration policies, hence polarizing figures like Donald Trump have suddenly become so popular. If the word is too insulting and we push for a word with less insult, the severity of the issue will also diminish. For example, we refer to the camps that exterminated Jews in world war 2 as "death camps". The word is very vivid and accurate. Now if we just say "prison camp", the effect is diminished. Likewise, changing the term to a less "insulting" term will have the same effect of decreasing the magnitude of the immigration debate, especially those on the side who want stricter measures in place.
Debate Round No. 2



---"First of all, I never mentioned that the term anchor baby only applied to the children of illegal immigrants."

Actually, you did. However, I am aware that most people don't say whether it applies *only* to "illegal immigrants", let alone *which* "illegal immigrants". That is why the term is misleading. Are we talking about 14 million people? 700,000 people? 350,000? 8,000? This isn't an issue of unreliable statistics, it's an issue of unreliable words.

I certainly don't know which people, you admit you don't know, and it seems no one else does either. The problem is, once we do know - once someone has adequately defined the phrase - then there are better terms we could use.

---"Here's one from Merriam-Webster..."

Merriam Webster does not provide a definition. What you are referring to is a *user submitted* definition (by Anonymous).

There's also one from Urban Dictionary:
-- What your girlfriend hopes to achieve by "forgetting" to taker [sic] her pill, thus guaranteeing that you'll have to spend the rest of your now ruined life with her... or that you'll have to run from the law forever to avoid child support.

Here's what Cambridge says:

Here's Webster:

Macmillan's definition:

Here's one from Oxford:
- Used to refer to a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country which has birthright citizenship, especially when viewed as providing an advantage to family members seeking to secure citizenship or legal residency.

Finally, American Heritage:
- 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.

I reiterate, it is not merely misleading and non-standard, it is so misleading and non-standard that most reputable dictionaries don't provide any definition, let alone consistent ones.

--- "Naturally, others want to find a method with a higher chance of success,"

That is "the American way". But demonstrate that having a son or a daughter who is a citizen increases the chance or decreases the time to become a citizen. Then provide a reason why that's relevant to making up poorly defined, emotionally charged words, rather than simply saying "children of immigrants".


--- "I don't think the word is aimed so much at the baby,"

"Think" what you want, it's literally in the word. It's also in the definition you provided to... sorry, "from" Webster, right at the beginning - "a baby born...". Not only does American Heritage agree - "...a child born...", it also recognizes what is "disparaging". You might as well claim saying "Screw you" isn't about "you".

--- "Regardless, I fail to see that changing or censoring a word based on insult alone is a good idea. "

If you don't care how people will understand the word, then you are not using words to convey specific concepts. If you are using a word specifically to insult, then *that* is the concept your intend to convey. Granted, those who wish to use the word specifically to be insulting are those least about to self-censor themselves, but that doesn't mean everyone else should accept it. "Anchor babies" should be among words like "n..."[1] that society simply does not accept.

[1] Expletive literally deleted by!


--- " As you said, some words are too narrow, and some are too broad as a substitute for anchor baby, so why not leave it as it is?"

Because you either INTEND a broad meaning OR a narrow meaning. Unless you intend BOTH broad AND narrow, it is not appropriate. If you mean either 14 million people AND 8,000 people, then you are either very very confused, or want the listener to be very confused. There is no context to determine whether the speaker is referring to. For instance, I could use "love" either broadly - like "I love everyone" - or a narrowly like - "I love my wife/husband". You notice how you automatically can tell the difference?

Let's try....

- "Anchor babies should receive emergency medical care, prior to deportation."

- "The parents of anchor babies should be branded, and deported with their child."

Which did I intend only to apply to only "birth tourists"? Which is for all children of undocumented immigrants? Although I don't fully support either statement, I do have an intended *different* meaning for them - can you guess which is which, or is "anchor baby" too broadly narrow? "Immigrant children" is NOT emotionally charged. Neither is "first generation citizen," "birth tourists," "natural born citizens," "young undocumented immigrants" or "illegal resident children". (Or "kids".)

--- "Now I do agree with you that the word is emotionally charged, but it's not the word but the situation behind it that causes so much friction in people."

I disagree. As I've stated, this vagueness, and insult directed at babies, is why it is emotionally charged. If it weren't, it wouldn't be used. Since no one could possibly whether you mean it broadly, narrowly, both or just talking about your pregnant girlfriend, the only thing left is emotion.

--- "For example, we refer to the camps that exterminated Jews in world war 2 as "death camps". The word is very vivid and accurate. Now if we just say "prison camp", the effect is diminished."

There is a concrete difference between a "death camp" and a "prison camp". A prison camp is where people are held prisoner. A "death camp" is either a sub-set of prison camps, as where people are held prisoner and die - or the worst Boy Scout trip ever. Regardless, the words are meant to convey concepts, which are emotionally disturbing.

"Anchor baby" is meant to convey emotional disturbance about immigration. You actually admit the purpose is so "the severity of the issue will also diminish." So, if we use "immigrant children" or other terms (see above), the severity is less. The issues remain important.

Do a google search for "anchor baby" and "immigrant children", and compare the *nature* of the results.

"Anchor baby" is not used to discuss the severity of a complex issue, it's used to distract from the complex issue. The purpose is not to convey politically relevant concepts, it is meant to be the statement of harm, the argument, conclusion and solution all rolled in to one. It is the equivalent of shouting "F----- A--HOLES!!"[1]

(Pro-tip: Take the search results from "anchor babies", and every time you see "anchor baby", replace it with "f----- a--holes". Now do that with the results from "immigrant children".)


Third round:

1. Is the term anchor baby misleading?

First, Where did I say that the term "only" applied to illegal immigrants?

Second, Oops... I should have checked that the Merriam Webster definition was user submitted. Nonetheless, it still matches closely to the reputable Oxford and American Heritage definitions that you gave, both of which are also consistent with each other. Also, it is fairly consistent that anchor baby refers to a baby born from a non-citizen as mentioned in both dictionaries. Non-citizen means non-citizen, whether you came there legally or not. There is no inconsistency. If you are not a citizen when you have the child there, then the word anchor baby is applicable. If you are a citizen, then it's not applicable.

Third, you say I have to demonstrate how having a son or daughter as a citizen increases the chances or decreases the time of becoming a citizen yourself, but we are not debating whether anchor babies are a feasible option or not for parents, but rather is the word misleading. It's not, since the word is quite clear that it refers to babies of non-citizens especially those who could later secure citizenship. Whether this is a sound strategy or not is irrelevant, but the term itself is not misleading.

Fourth, "children of immigrants" can refer to both foreign-born citizens or non-citizens, while anchor baby is specially used for non-citizens only.

2. Is the term anchor baby insulting?
- I said before that the word is mostly aimed at the parents who try to loophole the system and is geared towards forcing the government to enact stricter immigration laws. If you say we should take it as a direct insult aimed at babies, then okay, let's go ask some babies what they think about this word. Tell me if you can find a baby that can say "I find this word insulting." Now if we counted the adult version of these babies once they are grown up, that would fine, but the babies themselves are not yet fully capable of receiving insult from this term, so hence it is geared towards the adults. So far, this has been an emotional topic, and you are clearly affected by it also, so my point stands that it is we adults who are emotionally affected by this term.

Also, you said "screw you", which is an insulting term. Should we also lobby for that term to be removed? Is it not hypocritical to say that some words should be removed from usage while simultaneously using words that also hurt others? As I said, the word anchor baby will die out eventually once the majority of the US population can come to terms with its immigration laws. I am NOT advocating that we use it, I am just not comfortable with the fact that the English language is being policed so heavily nowadays.

Finally, the word n****r (which by the way, you tried to use and has been deleted by this website) is by no means completely unacceptable to society. There are those who hate it so much and will attack anyone who says it, while others use it as a form of endearment like black comedians and rappers.

3. Is the word anchor baby appropriate
- "Anchor babies should receive emergency medical care, prior to deportation." This statement doesn't really make sense since anchor babies are automatically considered citizens, so why should they be deported? Anyway, since you used the term anchor baby which means babies of a non-citizen, then you are referring to all babies of non-citizens. This is not vague. If you wanted a more specific definition, then use a more specific word like "babies of Chinese tourists."

I used the "death camp" example as way of saying that the severity of the issue lessens with the changing of the labels itself. Naturally, those on the anti-immigration side think that by banning anchor baby (even the word "alien" or "illegal" is now being banned) the importance of their side is also decreases, so they are opposing it.

The last pro-tip does not make sense as well. For example, this headline on the front of the search results "Anchor babies, birthright citizenship, and the 14th Amendment" would not make sense with "F----- A------, birthright citizenship, and the 14th Amendment". As with immigrant children, this headline "Norway accused of unfairly taking away immigrant children" would not also make sense with 'Norway accused of unfairly taking away F------- A------".

As we have come to the closing round, I would just like to state my personal views. I am not a US citizen nor will I ever be. I come from a third world country where we do not have citizenship by soil, but rather citizenship by bloodline. This does not matter anyway since the only people wanting to immigrate here are rich American dudes wanting their pension to last forever due to the cheap labor market and prices. However, I know many people who desperately want to enter into the states through whatever means necessary, whether feasible or not, and my uncle was at one time an illegal immigrant and has been deported back to our place. With that said, I am NOT in favor of the current paranoia that the states is having about building a Great Wall of Donald Trump and attempting to kick everyone out.

I apologize if this debate has caused your blood pressure to rise. We are probably on the same side on this issue, and our only difference is that I feel like trying to impose a blockade on words that we find insulting is not the right way to go. In fact, people who use the word anchor baby is actually doing themselves a disfavor, because they are seen as ranting ultra-nationalists. There are consequences to using charged words, but we should still protect everyone's right to say them no matter how bad it is. However, that does not mean we can't call them out on their bullsh** once they say it, which I would agree is the way to go.

That was a nice debate! Thank you very much!
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by roguetech 2 years ago
@Greg4586 Thanks for voting on the poll, and big thanks for explaining your vote.
Posted by roguetech 2 years ago
Thanks again, foxexhowser, for the challenge. Good arguments all.

Just want to clarify the "Pro tip" (basically comparing uses of "anchor baby" and "immigrant children" - I searched with the quotes). Google search results are customized, so what I saw researching it may not match others' experience. My experience is that "anchor baby" gets news stories about Trump, the "Asian controversy", demands for apology from Bush, etc. Mostly hype, and we could replace it with any slur, and they'd make sense.

I search "immigrant children", I gets hits about the U.S. Committee of Refugees, Supreme Court rulings, Immigrant Children's Protection Project, etc. Actual issues. For the most part, replacing their uses of "immigrant children" with a random expletive, they wouldn't make sense.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Greg4586 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: So first off Con brought up a lot of good points that Pro didn't really rebut that well. For example, con brought up the point that how insulting a word is completely subjective. Pro rebuts this by saying "the only ones to determine whether a word is insulting are those it is applied. to" This is pretty hypocritical and had a bunch of flaws. 1. We're talking about babies and infants here, how are they supposed to determine if a term is offensive. 2. This is hypocritical because how is Pro supposed to speak for all anchor babies and say that it's offensive and just proves his own argument wrong. 3. This only supports Con's argument that insults are subjective. Lastly Con brought up a really good point that Pro really didn't rebut. Con argued that we shouldn't be policing the terms people are allowed to use.