Over the past few months, Republican candidates have had a field day disparaging the US-born children of undocumented immigrants.
Candidates, notably led by Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, have used the derogatory term “anchor babies,” while Trump has claimed that “a woman gets pregnant…she’s nine months, she walks across the border, she has the baby in the United States, and we take care of the baby for 85 years.”
It’s divisive and unfounded rhetoric, and what gets lost are the real-life stories.
A new Washington Post piece, “For illegal immigrants with babies, the anchor pulls in many directions,” lifts up the stories of some of these immigrant mothers and these US-citizen children demonized by Republican candidates for President.
The mothers discuss daily lives filled with hard work, slam false claims about their families, and describe the challenges new children bring to their lives as they continue to live in the US as undocumented immigrants.
“I didn’t come here to have a baby. I came to have a better future and help my daughter back in my country,” said Nellis Najera, 27, a kitchen worker who was attending a breast-feeding class. “Babies come because it is part of life. But it makes your life harder, because you have to choose between the baby and work.”
Maria, a mom of two US-citizens:
“If they say we come here to have children and take people’s jobs, it’s not true,” said Canas, who never attended school. “Nobody gives me anything. I have done any work I could find. I want my children to have what I couldn’t. What’s wrong with that?”
“Even if our children are born here, we still have no documents,” said Laura Flamenco, a 33-year-old Salvadoran woman who got married after four years in the United States and was about to have her first baby. “I came here to support my parents back home, but I had to stop work because of the baby. Now I have less to send them, even though they still need it,” Flamenco said. “The people who judge us have no human feeling. We do all the hard and heavy work. We need them, and they need us.”
Born in Texas, Melendez met her husband, an undocumented Salvadoran, in 2004; three years later, their daughter Viviana was born. But things went wrong during the delivery. The baby’s oxygen supply was cut off, and she suffered severe brain damage and physical disabilities. She has received extraordinary medical care ever since, including a nurse who accompanies her to school, much of it paid through the federal Supplemental Social Security program.
“If she had been born in El Salvador, she would be dead,” said Melvin Melendez, 33, who works as a restaurant cook and now has temporary legal amnesty.
Regardless of the family’s legal status, Melendez said, the couple has earned the benefits that help keep their daughter alive.
“For nine years, my wife took the bus every morning at 4 to work at McDonald’s, and as soon as she came home at night, I went to work. We lived in shifts and never took a vacation,” Melendez said. “We didn’t plan for this to happen to our daughter. But thank God it happened here.”