Journal of Interdisciplinary Feminist Thought


Chicana/o Studies | Civil Rights and Discrimination | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Immigration Law | Law and Gender | National Security Law | Women's Studies


The post-9/11 era in the United States has revealed a specific fear about immigrants as terrorist threats. Although this fear manifests as a generalized one against any immigrant, when we analyze public discourse, we can find rhetorical patterns involving specific groups, with Latinos/as at center. U.S. public discourse typically conjures images of immigrants as terrorists, which are either genderless or male, and it is activated and cultivated in moments of national crisis (most recently, the 2013 Boston marathon bombing attacks). In this paper, we move beyond notions of immigrants as either genderless or male to discuss post-9/11 perceptions of immigrant women as threats to the security and stability of the country. Specifically, we consider notions surrounding the savagely named “anchor babies” or “terror babies” to explain how images of immigrant women have assumed new meanings following the events of September 11, 2001, with special attention given to conceptions of Latina bodies as threatening. These designations, used consistently among the country’s political right, have created discursive sensibilities in relation to (Latina) immigrants. We tease out the ideologies embedded within the rhetoric of conservative pundits and politicians, who have consistently discussed and proselytized against immigrants, and more to the point, painstakingly articulated immigrants as terrorists since 2001. We examine statements made by social critics such as Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter, along with comments made by state and federal politicians, to trace a troubling pattern of discourse connecting women immigrants and their babies to destruction and terrorism--transforming immigrant bodies into perceived threats to the security of the United States. We also use Leo Chavez’s concept of "the Latino threat," relating it to Nicholas de Genova’s idea of "a deportation regime," and Kathleen Arnold’s notions about immigrants as threats to unpack and trace these connections.