It's a new term to me: Anchor Babies. Having grown up in the news biz, I'm familiar with Anchormen and Anchorwomen, but not Anchor Babies.
The moniker refers to the children of pregnant illegal immigrants who enter the United States at some point before their due date. Since their children are delivered on U.S. soil, the children immediately become U.S. citizens and "anchor" the mother (and later, the rest of her family) as future legal U.S. citizens as well.
FAIR (or the Federation for American Immigration Reform), a group pushing for limits on our capacious immigration policy, estimates between 287,000 and 363,000 so-called Anchor Babies are born to illegal immigrants each year. Immigration (both legal and illegal) is responsible for 60 percent of the population growth in the already overcrowded United States (according to Census Data) and Anchor Babies are creating a significant portion of the associated costs.
All of this is about to boil over into a huge political brouhaha over immigration reform. Congress just approved new tough national standards for illegal immigrants to obtain state driver's licenses (long overdue, say I). The new "Real ID" Act, in turn, set in motion a major battle to overhaul U.S. immigration policy.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration uncharacteristically doled out $1 billion to hospitals nationwide during the next four years. Why this taxpayer-funded health care bailout? To help defray costs of providing care to people who can't pay. And yes, most of these, your hard-earned taxpayers' dollars, will cover the bills of people in this country illegally and for the delivery of Anchor Babies.
California will get the largest chunk of this new federal outlay or almost $71 million. No wonder. FAIR cites Census Bureau data showing Californians spent $10 billion last year (whew!) to subsidize education, medical care and incarceration costs for (not legal but) illegal immigrants.
Guess who's hit the hardest? Not the wealthy Hollywood types, nor the Silicon Valley billionaires, but the hard-working, low-income recent and legal immigrants. It's costing them nearly $1,200 per native-headed household to subsidize illegal immigration in the Golden State.
The latest edition of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons estimates some 84 California hospitals have closed because they can't carry the costs they are forced to bear to make well sick and injured illegals. When is enough going to be enough?
This is not about race. For my part, I am the granddaughter of immigrants who came from Poland, Russia and Cuba. My father's side of the family speaks Spanish as a native language and English with heavy Spanish accents. This is about preserving the quality of life for legal immigrants, and the progeny of immigrants who have come here legally since the birth of our immigrant nation.
It's also about fairness to America's working class many of whom are legal immigrants. Their housing, education and health care costs go up as their wages are driven down by immense competition from illegal immigrants. Where's the fairness or practicality in that?
This is also not about partisanship. President Bush and the GOP should be ashamed of his $1 billion sop to Western states. Instead of squandering precious resources (and seeking Hispanic support) by giving grants to states for health care costs, he should have spent that money shoring up U.S. borders and cracking down on virtually unchecked illegal immigration.
Democrats, desperate to hang on to dwindling Latino support, gleefully vote to subsidize the cost of illegal immigration, without trying to shift that support toward the needs of legal, inner-city Americans.
Where does the solution lie? I've given up on government enforcing immigration laws. So let's instead shift the costs of illegal immigration to the wealthy American business owners who profit from their cheap labor.If illegal immigrants couldn't find work, they'd stop coming. And if the business owners had to pay them "true wages" (to wit, enough money to cover their health care, education and incarceration costs) illegals would be too expensive to hire. The saying goes, "Don't get funny with the money." Right now, employers of illegal immigrants are laughing at supporters of enforced immigration laws. Let them find out what it's like to be the target of derision.
Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe@CompuServe.com.