Election season is upon us and presidential hopefuls are tripping over themselves as they articulate just what -- and who -- they think is the problem with America. Recently, Republican candidate Jeb Bush got into some trouble when he clarified that his recent use of the term "anchor babies" was not meant to derogate Hispanics but was "frankly more related to Asian people."
"Anchor babies" is an arguably pejorative term for non-US citizens who enter the US to give birth so that their newborns can be granted automatic citizenship. After Bush's remarks about Asian anchor babies went viral, several news outlets and researchers have pointed out that yes, there is an Asian birthing industry in America that attracts well-resourced Asians seeking to give their child a leg up with an American citizenship. But how big is this industry?
Accurate numbers are hard to come by because there is no incentive for the birthing industry to self-report, and hospitals do not verify the status of mothers' citizenship status. At best, using a variety of crude guesstimates, the Center for Immigration Studies (which supports an immigration policy that "admits fewer immigrants but affords a warmer welcome for those who are admitted") puts the number of "Asian anchor babies" at a maximum of 36,000. That's less than .003% of foreign women (including Asians) who gave birth in the U.S. in 2012. The numbers are hardly large enough to justify a blanket statement about Asian anchor babies.
Asian Americans are seen as less American than their peers, and experience 'identity denial' — challenges of their identity such as being asked, "No, where are you really from?" — routinely in their daily lives.
It's unsurprising, then, that Asian Americans would bristle at Bush's intimation that their presence in America is exploitative and unwanted. Asian Americans are held up as the model minority but, at the same time, they are also reminded that they will never truly be "American." ML-SAAF's attempts to tease out Korean and Filipino identity among Asian Americans is all the more important in light of these contradicting messages directed at Asian Americans.