Patrick Keefe boards a flight to the Chinese province of Fujian, takes his seat in first class, and is astonished to discover that half his fellow passengers are... babies. So begins a Slate travel dispatch that doubles as the most astonishing immigration story I've read this year.
The Fujianese are known for their work ethic and entrepreneurial zeal, and the new arrivals fanned across the United States and started businesses. That generic Chinese restaurant in the strip mall near your house? Almost certainly run by Fujianese. Those no-frills "Chinatown buses" that initially linked Eastern seaboard cities and now rival Greyhound, crisscrossing the continent? A Fujianese innovation.
The Fujianese in America work so hard, in fact, that when they have babies -- babies who, by virtue of being born on American soil, are U.S. citizens -- they don't have time to raise them. So, they send the babies home, back to the very villages the parents left, to be raised by their grandparents. The babies sitting around me -- who begin screaming in unison as the plane nears Fuzhou and begins its descent -- are packing something that many of their chaperones lack: U.S. passports.
As an immigration columnist who opposed illegal immigration, I always cringed most when I read about someone brought to the United States illegally as a baby, raised here, and deported at age 12 or 16 or 21 to a country they'd never known. They considered themselves American, as did everyone they knew -- their technical legal status seemed neither just, given their innocence, nor a reflection of their loyalty to our country.
The story above portends an almost opposite problem: a decade or two hence there will be adults who are Chinese in every way except the most legalistic one, but who are entitled to live, work and vote in America without going through any of the safeguards or assimilative features our immigration process (or growing up here) affords.
Americans sometimes fret about whether so-called anchor babies and illegal immigrant kids will grow up loyal to the country of their ancestry or the country of their upbringing. I find these "anchorless babies" more cause for concern.
Share this Article
Like this Article
Print this ArticlePrint Article