World / Reporter's Journal

Are 'anchor' babies becoming more of a loadstone than a plus?

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-08-17 03:40

Summer is the season for reunions. So far this time around I have already hosted several Chinese friends from my teenage years in China and some college friends are still to come.

Many of the visitors have one thing in common: They have had children born in the US. Their decision to have "an anchor baby" in the US, which gives the child automatic US citizenship under the 14th Amendment, has, however, somehow become a burden and annoying inconvenience these days.

US citizenship offers a wide range of government benefits and assistance programs, including Social Security, Medicare, free public education, possible merit-based loans and grants for college and hassle-free tourism access to 186 countries.

Are 'anchor' babies becoming more of a loadstone than a plus?

For Amy Dai, a senior manager at China Mobile's Jiangsu branch, shuffling back and forth with her US-born son between the US and China has become habitual. Six years ago, Dai gave birth to Dylon in Los Angeles in the hopes that his US citizenship would provide another option for her son and alleviate some of the hardships Chinese people face competing for a good education and decent life in the world's most populous country.

"I want Dylon to live an easy and happy life," said Dai. Like Dai, many Chinese parents chose to have their children born in the US as long as the women are on valid tourism or business visas and are able to afford the cost.

The prelude to the easy and happy life of an America-born child, however, can be taxing.

Most of the babies are taken back to China by their parents in their infancy years and live there until they complete middle school, according to Dai, who chairs a social network group for Chinese parents with America-born children.

Unlike anchor babies of other ethnic backgrounds, "our children won't use American resources, and it might take at least 21 years for us parents to obtain US permanent residency if we choose to apply," said Dai.

Both China and the US don't recognize dual nationally. Returning to China, the America-born child faces many hurdles compared to their Chinese counterparts in terms of receiving free public education and social welfare.

Alan Zhang, 15, said his parents have had to pay higher tuition to enroll him in private schools since kindergarten. "Without a local birth certificate, I'm not qualified to enter public schools," he explained.

Both business people in the petrochemical industry, Zhang's parents returned from the US to China when Zhang was one-year-old. "I don't know exactly how much out of pocket my parents have spent on my education in China," said Zhang. "Finally they decided to send me to the US when I was in junior high school."

Attending San Mateo High in the Bay Area now, Zhang said he has adapted well to the new environment, and "the good part is everything is free now."

In addition to extra expenditures on tuition, paperwork is another headache. Dai has to make trips to the US with Dylon every two years to renew his entry permit to China, which is issued by the Chinese government to foreign-born Chinese; and must come to the US every five years to renew Dylon's US passport.

"I have to admit that I'm so fed up with the long-haul flights, the jet lag is killing me," said Dai.

It's a heated debate over whether or not having an America-born child is worthwhile. And by way of breaking news, I just heard about two pregnant Chinese couples who have decided to give birth in China.

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