Revised definition of “anchor baby”

Revised Definition of ‘Anchor Baby’ Part of Leftist Agenda, Critics Say


Published December 09, 2011

Read more: decision by the American Heritage Dictionary to revise its definition of “anchor baby” — labeling it an offensive and disparaging term — is an attempt to manipulate the “linguistic landscape” and push a leftist agenda, some opponents of illegal immigration say.

“Anchor baby” was among roughly 10,000 words — including “hoodie” and “babydaddy” — added to the dictionary’s fifth edition last month. The hot-button term, a noun, was initially defined as: “A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family.”

That definition caught the attention of Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center, who heard American Heritage Dictionary executive editor Steve Kleinedler read it during a radio interview last month. Giovagnoli blasted the definition on the organization’s blog last Friday, saying it masked the “poisonous and derogatory” nature of the term.

By Monday, the term had been changed. It is now defined as such: “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 revision is now a “well-crafted” definition of how the term is used, Giovagnoli said.

But not everyone agrees.

“That’s a political statement and it’s not even accurate,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “[An anchor baby] is a child born to an illegal immigrant.”

Krikorian said the revised definition makes a political statement and is much more than neutral, “just the facts” reference material.

“It’s a sign of real provincialism,” he said. “I understand why people don’t like the term, but I know lots of people who use it in a non-disparaging fashion. There really isn’t a shorthand way of describing people like this, and there does need to be because it an important source of political debate: Should the children born to illegal immigrants get automatic citizenship?”

Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington-based organization that seeks to end illegal immigration, said the revised definition panders to a small but vocal group of critics who are “manipulating the political, cultural and now linguistic landscape” of the United States.

“Publishing word definitions to fit politically correct molds surrenders the language to drive an agenda,” Dane told “This dictionary becomes a textbook for the open borders lobby.”

Asked if the term has a place in the dictionary, Dane replied: “Yes, it’s a descriptive term, but what’s offensive about ‘anchor baby’ isn’t the term, but the practice of having a baby on our soil to game the system.”

Giovagnoli, for her part, is satisfied with the change.

“I have no idea what their political leanings are, but our conversations were about the precision of language,” she said. “They were very scholarly and rigorous in their response to me in their attempts to define how the word is used and interpreted.

“If anything, they realized that the issue started to generate criticism that this really was a term that was a slur, and that they made a mistake.”

In a statement to, Kleinedler said the original definition “lacked standard terminology” to indicate its offensiveness.

“This error has been rectified both in the definition and by the use of the label “offensive,” so the term is now treated similarly to how the dictionary treats a wide range of slurs,” Kleinedler’s statement read. “The editorial staff stands behind the revision.”

By comparison, the term “anchor baby” is not found in the latest online dictionary edition by Merriam-Webster. But while it is just one word among 10,000 new terms, William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration, said the revision of “anchor baby” is no small matter.

“The future of the United States is a place where you cannot speak your mind freely or engage in any terms or comments deemed inappropriate by the thought police,” Gheen said. “What’s really offensive is how these pro-illegal immigrant groups are telling people how they can talk.”

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