Demystifying U.S. Immigration: Citizenship through children

“Anchor babies” is a term that refers to children born in the U.S. with at least one parent who resides in the U.S. illegally. Federal laws grant citizenship to the child automatically and let the child sponsor his parents for citizenship, as long as the parent entered the U.S. legally. There is one catch – the child must be at least 21 years old before he is able to sponsor his parents.

Up to 21 years is a long time for a parent to wait to achieve legal status. If in the U.S. illegally, the parent faces the threat of deportation every day. Having a U.S. citizen child does not automatically assuage the fear of being forced to leave, nor does it automatically grant citizenship to the parent. The alien parent must find a way to stay legally, leave his child in the U.S. and return to his home country, or stay in the U.S. illegally. Few parents choose the second option, and the first option is not always possible, given that visas are difficult and expensive to come by. Wanting to give their children the better opportunities available in the U.S., most parents feel forced to stay in the U.S. illegally.