Posted on December 5, 2011

‘Anchor Baby’ Controversy: American Heritage Dictionary to Add Label to Pejorative Term

Huffington Post, December 5, 2011

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, responding to criticism for including “anchor baby” in its latest edition, will add a label identifying the politically-charged term either as “derogatory” or “offensive.”

The change comes after, a project of the nonprofit American Immigration Council, questioned the inclusion of the “anchor baby” definition without describing its pejorative nature:

The degree to which the immigration debate has coarsened over the last few years is no more evident than in the pages of the recently released fifth edition of the New American Heritage Dictionary. Among the new entries is the term ‘anchor baby.’ You might think that the definition would read something like: slang, a pejorative description of a child born in the United States to parents without legal status, implying that the parents intend to leverage the child’s citizenship to ‘anchor’ their own presence in the U.S. You would be wrong.

The online version of the American Heritage Dictionary defines “anchor baby” as:

“A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family.”

Over the weekend, reported that Steven Kleinedler, the dictionary’s executive editor, said a “swift and careful revision” of the term’s use was under way. American Heritage Dictionary, he said, was “adding a label . . . either derogatory or offensive, which I acknowledge should have been done in the first place, and we will determine how to revise the definition.”