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Genderacing immigrant subjects: ‘anchor babies’ and the politics of birthright citizenship

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Birthright citizenship is often a subject of important national debates on immigration. From a historical perspective, the influx of Mexican and Chinese immigrants to the United Stated has elicited politically charged efforts to deny the right of US citizenship to their children. Based on a review of popular discursive frames concerning the politics of birthright citizenship, this essay identifies and critiques the arguments from both ends of the political spectrum. We conclude that, by and large, the substance of their legal and philosophical arguments is old, hackneyed responses from decades ago. However, on many symbolic levels, the current rhetoric is quite uncharacteristically caustic, with a focus on racialized and gendered discourses among nationalist groups. We seek to explain why this is the case. Framed as ‘genderacing immigrant subjects’, this essay examines the politics of naming (or nomenclature) through the construction of the racially gendered referent in public discourse, thereby ascribing socially resonant meanings that naturalize a call for draconian policy measures in order to socially engineer the national body.
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Keywords: Birthright citizenship; Mexican immigration; anchor babies; genderacing; immigrant subjects

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Ethnic Studies, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Publication date: May 4, 2018

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