An interesting exercise in recollection. The horror the New York Times reports:
Dark circles formed like warning signs beneath Yu Fen Wang’s eyes as she worked 12-hour graveyard shifts in a Queens maternity center that operated on the margins of legality. Her family said she had grown gaunt, could not sleep and told her husband she no longer wanted to live.All news has a context, whether it is documented or not.
Her employers, however, said they needed her to work. And her family needed the money. She earned less than $100 a day, they said, working in a private house that had been converted into a combined nursery and hotel for newborn babies and their mothers.
An open secret in the Flushing community, the center was part of an underground industry catering to a demanding clientele: local mothers resting after childbirth and Chinese visitors coming to have their babies in the United States, a practice known as “birth tourism.”
On Sept. 21, at 3:40 a.m., these dangers collided to near-fatal effect when, the police say, Mrs. Wang stabbed three babies sleeping in bassinets on the first floor — all girls — and two adults. She then turned the knife on her own neck and wrists.
The victims all survived. But the horrific act turned a spotlight on a pocket of immigrant New York, where a loose network of businesses tend to mothers and infants in the crucial, fragile month after childbirth but operate without any government oversight. The center, Mei Xin Care, is one of dozens in the area that vary widely in amenities and quality, leaving workers with few avenues for complaint, and families with little to guide them other than word of mouth, internet advertisements and blind trust.
In the early 1980s there was much discussion in some circles regarding Asian immigrants, I think primarily on the West Coast, gaming the benefits system by bringing over aged relatives so that their parents could take advantage of generous elderly welfare and retirement related social programs, without ever having contributed to them. My recollection is that the story puttered around for 2-5 years before ebbing away. I don't know if it turned out that the numbers were so small that it was a problem not worth solving, or perhaps there were tweaks to immigration policy which closed the loophole. I don't know. All I know is that I stopped seeing stories about the problem.
Similarly, with this New York Times report. Since at least the 2000s, perhaps earlier, there have been sporadic reports in either the mainstream press or in specialty fields about anchor babies. Anchor babies are a means of gaming the immigration process. Foreign women in late stages of pregnancy come to the US in order to give birth here. Under the 14th Amendment, anyone born in the US automatically is the beneficiary of US citizenship. The anchor concept arises from what happens after the child is born. Under the right circumstances, particularly after the child has reached adulthood, the parents can be brought in to the US as permanent residents and possibly later citizens. It involves long term planning but it is an effective way to game the system and skirt the increasingly stringent immigration rules.
Anchor babies have been a running dispute between Democrats and Republicans from a policy perspective for a couple of decades. Democrats tend to see the term as pejorative if not also racist. Republicans are incensed about gaming the system, regardless of who does it, especially if it imposes burdens on taxpayers.
One of the hall-marks of the debate is that Democrats tend to pooh-pooh the idea that anchor babies are a real phenomenon at all or decry it as inconsequential. As a candidate, Donald Trump made some statements about anchor babies, as did Jeb Bush which elicited much criticism from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
For example; Eliminating Birthright Citizenship Would Be a Bureaucratic and Costly Change of Law by Margaret D. Stock in The New York Times.
Changing the constitutional rule of birthright citizenship — a principle of equality that millions of Americans fought and died for in the Civil War — would not only cost billions, but would create more problems than it could solve.From the Washington Post, The myth of the ‘anchor baby’ deportation defense by Janell Ross.
Donald Trump said it; Jeb Bush said it, too.The Democratic Party leaning mainstream media, instinctively disparages the idea of anchor babies and deny its reality for policy making purposes. But even in 2015 when it first became a campaign issue, even the Washington Post's own fact checker had to concede the factual case though they might disagree with the policy implications.
Frankly, a whole range of people have used the term "anchor baby" this week in public discussions about Trump's immigration-related policy ideas -- ideas that include an end to the nearly 150-year-old practice of granting citizenship to anyone born in the United States.
It's the former, known as "birthright citizenship," which is delineated in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. And as all sorts of public figures have discussed the future of the 14th Amendment this week, the more colloquial -- many say pejorative -- term "anchor baby" has come up over and over again.
But the anchor baby, while potent politically, is a largely mythical idea.
From ‘Birth tourists’ and ‘anchor babies:’ What Trump and Bush got right by Glenn Kessler.
First, we are dealing with estimates. But Trump is essentially correct that about 300,000 children a year are born in the United States with at least one parent who is an undocumented immigrant.Kessler marked Trump and Bush as accurately describing the factual conditions underpinning their policy recommendations.
In 2010, both the Pew Research Center and the Center for Immigration Studies estimated that more than 300,000 such children were born in the United States every year. Pew pegged the figure at 340,000 in 2008, while CIS gave a range of 300,000 to 400,000. Under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, all were recognized as U.S. citizens at birth.
Pew estimated that four out of every five children born to at least one authorized immigrant parent were born in the United States, for a total of 4 million in 2009. That number has probably grown by an additional 2 million in the past six years. Birth rates have declined since the Great Recession, so it’s possible the annual figure has dropped slightly below 300,000 (7.5 percent of 3.9 million births is about 294,000), but not by much.
So what is Bush talking about? A spokesman says he is referencing an entirely different issue: women who come to the United States on tourist visas — and thus are on U.S. soil legally — but for the express purpose of having the child born in the United States.
The Washington Post wrote about the trend in 2010, noting that the regulations do not permit the State Department to refuse visas simply because a woman is pregnant. Rolling Stone magazine recently documented the case of a Chinese couple who paid $20,000 to be housed in a small hotel in Los Angeles while they were awaiting the birth of the child. The main motivation — ensuring the child could be educated in the United States.
How many women take this step? This is even more difficult to estimate. Steven A. Camarota of CIS in 2015 estimated the number of “birth tourists” was about 36,000, after comparing the data for the number of foreign-born mothers who gave birth during the year against the number of such women who showed up in the U.S. Census. The gap was almost 36,000, but he cautioned that it was a very rough estimate.
Camarota, in an interview, said the largest share of birth tourists was probably from East Asia, but many also came from Eastern Europe (such as Russia) and Nigeria. A report in Vice says that a handful of pregnant women board every flight from Moscow to Miami, which is apparently a popular spot for Russian birth tourists.
But The Huffington Post, quoting Chinese sources, said the total number of Chinese birth tourists is projected to be 60,000 in 2014, a sixfold increase over 2012 — apparently spurred on by a romantic comedy, “Finding Mr. Right,” about a Chinese woman who flew to Seattle so she could have an American baby (and also go shopping).
“The conversation about immigrant families in the U.S. is typically centered around people from Latin America seeking economic opportunities in the States,” The Huffington Post said. “But as incomes in China rise and visa hurdles fall, women from China are making up a larger share of foreign births in the U.S., and they’re complicating many of the popular ideas about immigrant mothers.”
Federal authorities recently conducted high-profile raids on businesses in southern California that charged up to $60,000 to arrange the tourist visas and provide housing in anticipation for the birth.
While precise figures are hard to come by, the number of children born to undocumented immigrants each year in the United States still easily outpaces the number of children born to women who come to the United States to give birth using a legal tourist visa. What is a more important issue is obviously a policy question beyond the purview of The Fact Checker.
But given the apparent surge of Chinese applicants, Bush is likely correct that most of the birth tourists are Asian. Meanwhile, Trump is correct that number of births to undocumented immigrants is about 300,000 a year. Both earn a Geppetto Checkmark.
So in 2015, there was a lot of mainstream media, caught up in the fever of an election, disparaging the notion that anchor babies were a real phenomenon or that a surprisingly high percentage of children born in the US are born to illegal aliens. In a ten minute search, I find that whereas I thought most of the misrepresentation came from The New York Times, more of the column inches and articles came from the Washington Post. But only the Washington Post acknowledged the underlying facts.
Which brings us back to A Suicidal Nanny, an Underground Industry and 3 Babies Stabbed today. The New York Times is reporting on the reality that they denied in 2015. They never use the term anchor baby as it was discussed in 2015. Perhaps they have changed their style guide. Perhaps they are simply seeking to draw attention away from the fact that current reporting is at odds with their recent reporting. For whatever reasons, there are no anchor babies in their report, but there is birth tourism.
There is a lot of cultural puff they overlay on the article, trying to mask the underlying anchor baby reality, pardon me "birth tourism" reality.
Centers like this one — which was alternately known as Mei Bao, or “beautiful baby” in Chinese — provide two services. The first is for newly-arrived immigrant mothers practicing a Chinese tradition some 1,000 years old in which they recuperate for a month after childbirth while other women, often called “aunties,” care for their infants. Authorities said the centers also provide assistance to women from China who wish to give birth in the United States in order to obtain instant citizenship for their children, which is legal under immigration law.The reporters, through rose-tinted glasses, are apparently trying to peddle the idea that this is just an expression of a cultural tradition, only occurring in the US because of its superior medical services. All the rest of the article belies this fig leaf. It is a business built on circumventing immigration rules.
One neighbor said in an interview that she saw a steady stream of clients arriving, sometimes in fancy cars.
Some of them would have been following the custom of a monthlong rest after childbirth. The period culminates in a “red egg celebration” to mark the baby’s survival of its fragile first weeks, said Margaret M. Chin, a professor of sociology in the Asian American Studies program at Hunter College.
The centers are an alternative to obtaining visas so family members can fly to the United States, or returning to China, where health care is often less sophisticated. For several thousand dollars, new mothers have access to 24-hour nannies and cooks.
And it is a big business.
An open secret in the Flushing community, the center was part of an underground industry catering to a demanding clientele: local mothers resting after childbirth and Chinese visitors coming to have their babies in the United States, a practice known as “birth tourism.”About what might be the appropriate policies to address anchor babies or birth tourism, there is much legitimate debate. Denying that it exists and denying that it fosters hardships and tragedies for both the participants and for Americans is a dereliction of journalistic duty and becomes morally repugnant when the denial seems to be driven primarily for partisan purposes.
But the horrific act turned a spotlight on a pocket of immigrant New York, where a loose network of businesses tend to mothers and infants in the crucial, fragile month after childbirth but operate without any government oversight. The center, Mei Xin Care, is one of dozens in the area that vary widely in amenities and quality, leaving workers with few avenues for complaint, and families with little to guide them other than word of mouth, internet advertisements and blind trust.
There are some 40 such maternity centers — in private homes and apartments — advertising their services online in the New York and New Jersey area, and nearly 20 in the Flushing neighborhood.
For Chinese birth tourists, Los Angeles is the marquee destination. Centers compete with each other by advertising stays at plush hotels, shopping extravaganzas in nearby malls, and state-of-the-art hospitals. Fees can range from $50,000 to $80,000.
In the New York metropolitan area, more upscale maternity centers tend to exist in New Jersey and Long Island suburbs. The ones in Flushing appear to be smaller, and less expensive, options, where mothers stay in rooms that often have been subdivided.
It is akin to the voter fraud issue. Democrats deny that it happens at all or that it has any consequence. Republicans claim that it involves millions of voters. The Democrats are demonstrably wrong. There is plenty of evidence of lots of voter fraud in many places and compelling evidence that in some select elections it is material enough to swing the outcome. On the other hand, it is almost certainly not the case that this involves tens of millions of votes or even millions of votes. My guess is that, across the nation, there are probably some low hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes and that clearly there are occasions where outcomes are changed because of those fraudulent votes (or counts).
But I don't know the real magnitude and nobody else does either and we won't know until we actually tackle the problem. Till then, it remains a festering sore weakening trust in our body politic.
Turning a blind eye to a problem because you fear what the policies that a clear factual investigation might yield is almost always the worst policy of all.