Justice

#MyAsianAmericanStory Is Showing Another Side of the 'Anchor Baby' Debate

August 27th 2015

By:
Kyle Jaeger

The discussion of immigration by 2016 presidential candidates now includes Donald Trump's repeated use of the pejorative phrase "anchor babies," a reference to children birthed by mothers who come to the U.S. without a visa in order to secure citizenship for their offspring. Last week Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush used the term, which many in the Latino community find offensive. On Monday, he attempted to explain his use of the phrase in the following manner.

"What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there's organized efforts and, frankly, it's more related to Asian people coming into our country, having children in that organized efforts taking advantage of a noble concept which is birthright citizenship," Bush said in remarks on Monday in McAllen, Texas. "I support the 14th amendment."

For Trump's part, the candidate seems to regard "anchor babies" as an exclusively Latino phenomenon, and that is what Bush aimed to debunk. Bush's remarks, however, offended another prominent demographic of the country, Asian Americans. Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz (D) even weighed in, calling on Bush to "immediately retract his statements and apologize to the Asian community for his insensitive behavior," and adding that the candidate's comments were "derogatory and offensive."

Bush's comments became a focal point of conversations about political correctness. Bush went on to say that those expressing criticism over his use of the term should ease up on the political correctness. "I think we all 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," Bush said according to CNN.

After hearing Bush's comments, one perfectly chill 15-year-old, Jason Fong, took to Twitter, making a series of posts marked by the hashtag, #MyAsianAmericanStory, in an effort to drive conversation about the diverse range of experiences of Asian Americans. Fong encouraged users to incorporate the hashtag into their own Tweets on Monday evening, and by the next day, the trend had already spread across the country.

"Personally, I felt that his use of the term 'anchor babies' with such casual disregard was a testament to his perception and feelings about the Asian community and immigrants at large," Fong told ATTN:. "While it may appear to be 'innocent enough,' it's clear that Bush uses it as coded racial language against the Asian and immigrant community."

So he came up with the idea to bring forward stories of the Asian American experience, choosing to advance a positive and meaningful message rather than responding directly to Bush's comments.

"Watching the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag grow and educate many as to the harsh reality of racial profiling and police brutality inspired me and showed me how powerful social media could be," Fong said.

While some users expressed frustration over recurring feelings of estrangement that they've experienced in the U.S., others speculated about the potentially divisive intentions of presidential candidates who seemed to be pitting minorities against each other through their use of the disparaging term "anchor babies." A spokesperson for Bush's campaign said that the candidate was simply referring to an established trend wherein Asian mothers engage in "birth tourism."

"I was really surprised," Fong said of the response to his hashtag. "While I didn't expect it to become such a large trend, I was really excited to see Asian Americans from all walks of life sharing their stories and watching others learn about our community."

"There were so many different kinds: personal ones about their lives, certain racial stereotypes our community deals with ('Where are you really from?', 'Do you speak English?')," he continued. "Some also used it to educate others about the political and historical struggles of our community as well."