Baby Talk

Posted April 15, 2010 in News

There’s the F-bomb. There’s the “N” word. Now we’ve got “anchor baby.”


If you’re not familiar with the term—as I wasn’t—it’s a label commonly used in a derogatory fashion by immigration critics to describe the American-born children of undocumented/illegal immigrants and their alleged use as a device to gain a legal foothold in the U.S.


It’s also a term used last month by longtime Fontana Unified School District board member Kathy Binks.


And, man, community and Latino activists were quick to jump all over that one—and demand her resignation. Binks, who’s served the district for 22 years, eventually had to publicly fess up over the questionable language and apologize.


“It was brave of Mrs. Binks to walk in here and we appreciate her sincerity,” local activist Leticia Garcia says. “This doesn’t erase the careless disregard her words had, but it does create an opportunity to start something positive for Fontana, especially because of her long-time position of power and influence.”


Binks made the comment during a March 29 joint meeting between the school board and the Fontana City Council, when fellow school board member Barbara Chavez was talking about her concerns over how the American-born children of immigrants are often treated as immigrants. “Oh, I know that, they’re anchor babies” Binks said before Chavez continued speaking.


A clip of the comment even landed on YouTube.


Activists such as Garcia and Bobbi Jo Chavarria say they found the term offensive and asked for Binks to step down. The IE branch of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) decried the statement.


But critics later backed down when Binks offered to apologize publicly last week, saying she had been ignorant of what the term meant before she used it. Somehow there’s a lesson here somewhere.


Slang expert Grant Barrett wrote that “anchor baby” is “a derogatory term for a child born in the United States to an immigrant. Since these children automatically qualify as American citizens, they can later act as a sponsor for other family members,” in a December 2006 New York Times article.


The term is easily Googled and an entry can be found on Wikipedia—and in the writings of conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. Former congressman Virgil Goode of Virginia sought to fix the “anchor baby situation” in 2008 by proposing amendments to the country’s citizenship laws. 


Binks and her former critics say they’ve kissed and made up and are all about bringing the community together, one love, no color lines, etc. . . .


First on the list is Binks’ vow to team up with GROW Fontana, a grassroots community group, to campaign against hate, according to GROW members Chavarria and Garcia. Binks also agreed to help support and promote GROW Fontana’s Mother’s Day Essay/Artistic Expression Contest “as an opportunity for students to share what their mother taught them about community, tolerance and compassion,” activists say.


GROW is now hoping other city officials will make similar commitments.


GROW Fontana is a local chapter of the Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment, an L.A.-based nonprofit started by former ACORN members to tackle public education, foreclosure and state budget issues.


Binks did not respond to the Weekly’s interview request for this story. Her term ends in 2012. Binks is also the director of an Ettie Lee boys’ home and an advocate for anti-drug and anti-gang programs, according to the district’s website.


 “My family and husband and I have been the biggest advocates for children anywhere,” Binks said in a published news report. “I just had no idea that [anchor babies] was connected to (that) meaning. It’s been a learning experience.” 


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