Most California residents are likely aware that immigration has become a contentious issue in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, and some candidates have called for changes in the law to prevent citizenship being granted automatically to the children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States. The political debate on this issue may foster a belief that having what the media refers to as an anchor baby is a way for immigrants to achieve legal residence in America quickly and easily, but immigration laws give few advantages to the parents of these children.
The parents of such a child may not petition to become citizens themselves until their child has reached the age of 21. They must also have spent at least 10 years living overseas before their petition will be considered if they spent a year or longer living illegally in the United States. There are exceptions to this 10-year rule granted to the children or spouses of U.S. citizens, but undocumented immigrants rarely qualify for them.
Efforts to change the way that the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are treated were announced by President Obama in November 2014, but they have been challenged in federal courts. While immigration advocates may hope that President Obama's plan withstands legal scrutiny, many fear that the rhetoric surrounding the issue makes any form of political compromise unlikely.
The furor over anchor babies is an example of how public perception about immigration issues may sometimes be driven by fear or political hyperbole rather than the law. Experienced family immigration attorneys could clear up misconceptions about alleged shortcuts to U.S. citizenship or permanent residency, and they may also explain the various programs available to those who seek to live and work legally in America.