Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was born four months after his parents arrived in the US from India in 1971. One supposes that makes him an “anchor baby,” doesn’t it? Yet, despite the fact that he himself benefitted from the 14th Amendment provision extending US citizenship to every person born on American soil, Jindal has joined other members of the GOP in calling for the repeal of “birthright citizenship.”

Even though Donald Trump’s own attacks on so-called “anchor-babies” is spawning a backlash among Latinos and other immigrant groups, Jindal is signing on to the xenophobia bandwagon, along with Scott Walker and – ironically – Jeb Bush. The latter’s eldest son, George P. Bush, was born to Jeb’s Mexican wife, Columba, three years before she became a naturalized US citizen. Wouldn’t this make George P. an “anchor baby”? For that matter, Donald Trump’s three oldest children were born to his first wife, Ivana, years before she became a US citizen. Are they not “anchor babies” as well?

It doesn’t seem to matter to these contemptible GOP hypocrites.

During a recent interview on Fox News with Bill Hemmer, Jindal was asked if he found the phrase “anchor baby” to be offensive. Jindal dodged the question. Instead, he went off on a rant about Hillary Clinton, Planned Parenthood and use of the term “fetal tissue.” When Hemmer continued to press Jindal on the issue, however, Jindal replied that “Folks today are too easily offended,” adding that he is “happy to use the term.” Likewise, Jeb Bush has applied to term to “Asian people coming into our country, having children, and taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship.” Like Jindal, he insists that the phrase “anchor baby” is not offensive, and intends to continue employing the expression.

Granted, Amar and Raj Jindal, Columba Gallo, and Ivana Zelníčková all came to the US legally; therefore, their offspring cannot be considered “anchor babies” in Trump’s sense of the word. But that has nothing to do with birthright citizenship. The fact remains that Jindal is a beneficiary of the 14th Amendment.

The concept of birthright citizenship is rooted in the same English common law that underlies US federal statutes, as well as the legal systems in 49 out of 50 states (Louisiana being the exception). The idea was summed up by Supreme Court Justice Noah Haynes Swayne in the mid-19th Century:

All persons born in the allegiance of the king are natural-born subjects, and all persons born in the allegiance of the United States are natural-born citizens. Birth and allegiance go together. Such is the rule of the common law, and it is the common law of this country as well as of England…since as before the Revolution.

Since that time, there have been numerous legislative attempts to deny birthright citizenship to the offspring of immigrant couples, unless it can be proven that at least one parent is a legal resident. So far, none of these attempts has been successful. In a paper published by the National Foundation for American Policy in 2012, Margaret Stock wrote:

Based on current costs to verify the citizenship status of children born overseas to U.S. citizens, changing the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment will cost new parents in the United States approximately $600 in government fees to prove the citizenship status of each baby and likely an additional $600 to $1,000 in legal fees. This represents a “tax” of $1,200 to $1,600 on each baby born in the United States, while at the same time doing little to deter illegal entry to the United States. Direct fees to the federal government would reach $2.4 billion a year, based on current estimates.

At best, repealing birthright citizenship would add to the bureaucracy and cost taxpayers a heck of a lot of money – an issue that should concern the GOP, considering its fear and loathing of “Big Government.”  At worst, it penalizes children for the actions of their parents – and it won’t do a thing to address immigration problems.

In the end, the whole “anchor babies” debate is nothing more than another way for candidates to divert attention away from the real issues of income inequality, increasing poverty, corporate control, and environmental degradation.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.