The anchor baby debate continues.

Although we may be close to an immigration reform bill, after nearly a year of political deliberations, the anchor baby rhetoric still lives.

In the fall of 2011, when the American Heritage Dictionary decided to revise its definition of Anchor Babies to note the term is primarily used as a slur, it seemed the debate had neared the end.

Unfortunately, the issue never died. Its use merely subsided in public circles.

The issue recently arose again following Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s comments at a community forum about immigration reform.

Shortly before his remarks, Ryan, who supported “self-deportation” policies during the 2012 elections, was presenting himself as a born-again immigration reformer.

The GOP hailed him as a spokesperson for pro-immigrant advocate of change. Reports surfaced he was pushing for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The sincerity of his shift was viewed with skepticism by immigration advocates. His true goal, they claimed, was to leverage the issue for political gain in future elections.

By using “anchor babies” rhetoric in a town hall meeting aimed at creating public support for immigration reform, Ryan’s pro-immigrant image collapsed.

The fears of Ryan’s critics were confirmed.

Ryan The Immigration Reformer Reignites Anchor Babies Flame

“If you’re born here, you’re a naturalized citizen,” Ryan notes in the Think Progress video shown above. “But it’s really treating a symptom, right? People are coming across the border illegally or overstaying their visas. And therefore illegal immigration is fairly easy, and then people are having what’s called anchor babies.”

In other words, Ryan was informing the audience, anchor babies are a problem because they provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

As an alleged architect for immigration reform, Ryan’s comments seem inconsistent. Why would Ryan use terminology almost certain to reinvigorate xenophobic fears towards immigrants?

Drawing a line against immigrant parents becoming legalized based on their citizen children cannot help the various factions in Congress negotiate an immigration proposal when citizenship is one of the hot topic items.

The anchor babies language is political exaggeration.

So is Ryan’s support for immigration reform.

Why The Anchor Babies Myth Lingers

As I previously noted in The Attack On The 14th Amendment And The Myth Of Anchor Babies, few, if any, immigrants will successfully survive a wait in the shadows for 21+ years to obtain green cards.

Moreover, as Ryan acknowledged, the issue, properly phrased, is birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment, a matter deemed settled nearly 150 years ago.

Ratified in 1868, the 14th Amendment states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

Unfortunately, in politics, nothing is sacred. Especially when it comes to immigration politics.

Now, a short-sighted effort to revise American history is underway.

Anti-immigration zealots, sensing an opportunity to win votes based on fear-mongering, have seized upon the issue. Over and over again, they present images of immigrants crossing the border in waves, sucking up our resources until there is nothing left for citizens born here.

To an extent, the false imagery is working.

Because much of the public does not understand the immense legal difficulties or far-reaching social consequences of eradicating the 14th amendment, opponents have been able to disguise the attack as a mere immigration policy item.

It’s really an attempt to undermine immigration reform efforts.

Their arguments are unfounded.

I have served for over 17 years as a Riverside immigration lawyer, and I’ve never met anyone who came here to obtain citizenship through an unborn child.

Even if that was a deliberate plan, the likelihood of success is thin. It would take well over 21 years. Perhaps 30 years or longer.

To begin, the unborn child would have to turn 21 before he or she could turn around and immigrate their parent. They would have to wait several more years for their green card interview date to become current.

Then, since the parent arrived here or lived in the U.S. all that time without permission, the parent would have to return home for their green card interview. Last but not least, the parent would need to win a rarely-granted waiver to be allowed back into the U.S.

Maybe opponents’ rhetoric accurately portrays the motivation of some immigrants – but the true figures are far, far, far less than they suggest.