Earlier this month, New American Heritage Dictionary received perhaps a larger-than-expected backlash against one of their latest additions to the dictionary: the term “anchor baby.” This addition lent legitimacy to a word reviled by the pro-immigrant community because of its use in vitriolic attacks on immigrants, particularly because the original version of the new dictionary definition failed to indicate that the term is degrading and offensive. Adding insult to injury, the dictionary’s executive director indicated that the definition, as written, was in keeping with the practice of neutral and objective dictionary definitions.
Of course, pro-immigrant groups and individuals know that there is nothing neutral or objective about slurs and hate speech and that the “anchor baby” term is one of the most recent additions to the American hate lexicon. So after education and outreach by allies and supporters of immigrants—as well as shows of opinion by the public—New American Heritage Dictionary has modified the “anchor baby” definition to reflect its anti-immigrant grounding:
Anchor baby: Offensive Used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child’s birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother’s or other relatives’ chances of securing eventual citizenship.
The new definition isn’t quite as easy to read as the old one, but I think that its somewhat convoluted structure mirrors perfectly the arguments put forth by proponents of the “anchor baby” myth.
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, a steering committee member of the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights, is committed to working on behalf of the rights of immigrant women. For more resources and information about our work, check out: http://nciwr.wordpress.com/.