Asian-Americans do not normally form the centre of any political controversy. In America, Asians are often known as a model minority. So this week when Jeb Bush, a Republican Presidential candidate, referred to anchor babies as those of Asian descent, more specifically those Chinese babies born as part of the “birth tourism” industry, he was bombarded by accusations of racism toward Asians. Does talking about birth tourism and anchor babies “play into some long-established and very painful stereotypes about the inherent foreignness of Asian Americans”, as the Vox article opines?
I have always been curious about Americans’ obsession with race and the divisiveness it has caused within this society. I do not see how Bush’s statement could be interpreted as a racially-charged insult to all Asians. It has nothing to do with the “painful stereotypes” about Asian Americans. Let’s focus on birth tourism for one second. What exactly is birth tourism and how did this term make it into Jeb Bush’s vocabulary in the first place? Birth tourism refers to a rather new industry which facilitates the entry of pregnant Chinese women into the U.S. to give birth on U.S. soil, and there is a sharp increase in the number of these women as China grows wealthier and more corrupt (and in the wake of President Xi Jinping’s vow to crack down on corruption, there is an even larger influx of Chinese into the U.S.). There are great incentives for Chinese families to be drawn to the birth tourism industry. They are lured by the rule that anyone born on U.S. soil is an American citizen. An American passport for a kid born on U.S. soil is a family’s ticket out of political instability, pollution and food safety issues. Because birth tourism has turned into a lucrative industry catering to the nouveau riche of China, U.S. Federal authorities have recently conducted high-profile raids on businesses in southern California (a hot spot for birth tourists) that charged as much as $60,000 to arrange the tourist visas and provide housing to prepare for the birth. There was also a CNN story on this not long ago.
What is really at issue is the lax tourist visa program that has let many people with more insidious motives slip under the radar. Many people, especially those with financial means and the resources, are looking for every loophole in the immigration system whether in Canada or in the U.S. to get to their destination. The United States has always ranked very high on every Chinese person’s list of places to visit or immigrate to, and what better shortcut to the American dream than anchoring a baby on American soil with the full protection of the 14th Amendment? Why wait in line with the hundreds of thousands of other immigration applicants? As a Canadian who is quite familiar with the abuse of our very generous immigration system and government benefit programs, I find that our political leaders lack the courage to confront these issues. It is the Canadian people who have to pick up the tab for those who abuse our generosity. I have always believed that citizenship is a privilege that must be earned through legitimate means, and not something that can be bought and sold to the highest bidder in the marketplace. Likewise, American taxpayers will have to face the consequences of their less-than-stellar visa program.
Rather than reading too much into Jeb Bush’s anchor baby comment, how about if we focus on the real issue for a change?