A version of this article originally appeared on NBCLatino.com.
Rep. Paul Ryan, a newly signed-on supporter of immigration reform in the House, referred to immigrant children as “anchor babies” during a town hall meeting in his home state of Wisconsin.
“To the anchor baby issue—they call it anchor babies—which is when a person comes, has a child here,” he began, while answering a question. “If you’re born here, you’re a naturalized citizen. You have to change the Constitution… But it’s really treating a symptom, right? People are coming across the border illegally or overstaying their visas. And therefore illegal immigration is fairly easy, and then people are having what’s called anchor babies.” The comments were shown in a video taped by the left leaning blog ThinkProgress.
In December, 2011, the American Heritage dictionary categorized the term as 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,” the definition begins. “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.”
Ryan was touring Wisconsin holding town halls to make the conservative pitch for immigration reform, when he used the term.
The 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee has actually used the term before in talks with his constituents, but the language is surprising as he has emerged as an immigration reform leader in the House. His support is important because the Senate has already introduced bipartisan legislation and the pressure is on the House.