What happens if someone has no doccuments at all?

The first thing that you will want to do is contact the nearest UNHCR office. They provide advocacy and services to the world’s 10 million stateless people, and they are your best chance for help.

What they can actually do is going to depend on who you are and where you are. Unpopular ethnic minority in a not particularly friendly country? You may be out of luck, and you and your children may live with no political representation and whatever barebones social services UNHCR can eek out for you. But if you are a decent enough seeming person in a generally welcoming state, they may be able to work out an arrangement for you. Often this will end up case-by-case.

If you are not actually stateless, but just can’t prove who you are, UNHCR may be able to help you as well. They issue documents to refugees pretty regularly, and they may be able to offer you something that is recognized where you are.

There is an actual legal principle at work. As you note, any child born in the United States is automatically an American citizen, regardless of its parents’ citizenship status.

The other half of the principle is American immigration law gives preference to people seeking American residency or citizenship who are closely related to a current American citizen. And a child, not surprisingly, qualifies as a close relative to its parents.

So if you’re a person from another country and you get into the United States by whatever means, legal or illegal, and then have a child in the United States, that child “anchors” you in the United States. The child is an American citizen by birth and can’t easily be deported. And you, as the parent of an American citizen, have a basis for claiming the right to stay in the United States.

It’s not absolute - some anchor babies and parents of anchor babies do get deported - but it is real and not just some fantasy dreamed up by immigration opponents.

In Thailand there are about a million people born in Thailand who lack national ID cards. In some cases this is due to poor record-keeping or records lost in the tsunami, but there are also many “hill people” (ethnic groups like Akha, Karen, Lisu, Hmong, etc.) who are deliberately denied ID even though they’ve lived in Thailand for generations. (Some have special ID cards just to acknowledge they lack national ID.) These hill people are ineligible for all government services and risk arrest just to travel. To obtain national ID card would cost them two year’s wages or so – difficult since they can’t work legally.

As a different anecdote, I once worked with a high-ranking Silicon Valley engineer, ethnic Chinese, with U.S. government security clearance. He suddenly lost his citizenship (and clearance!), as did many of his relatives. Turned out his alleged grandfather was just some guy who needed some extra exemptions on Form 1040!

Anchor babies are just as legal as I am. I am not referring to de jure anchor babies, but *de facto *ones. There is no distinction in law between anchor babies and non-anchor babies in the USA. I was born to a mother who had no formal documentary proof of her legal status in the USA, therefore I meet the definition of anchor baby, which is a term coined by people who want to distinguish themselves from people who are inconvenient to their own interests.

My understanding is that if this happens to an American abroad, losing all documentation, then as long as you can get another American to swear officially at the nearest US Embassy that you are an American, then the embassy will help you.

This kind of situation isn’t unheard of. I remember that when they made more stringent regulations over here to reissue identity documents, some people were caught in kafkaiesque situations. I remember some retired lady born, like her parents, in an African country (then a French colony. Her parents were colonists, not locals) where records had been destroyed, for instance.

There are also illegal immigrants who refuse to give their identity and more importantly their country of origin (so that they can’t be deported).

It would seem to me that this situation must be very common.
There must be routine procedures in place to handle it , which governments use every day.

Tens of thousands of people cross the US-Mexico border illegally every month, and many die on the way crossing the desert. Thousands of African refugees arrive in Italy on rickety boats or rafts, and many die on the way at sea…

Many of these people probably never had official ID papers anyway. But even if you do, if your journey leaves you exhausted and near death, how careful are you going to be about keeping your papers clean and legible?
Hundreds of these people get caught every day, either at the border, or just a few days later.
What are the official procedures for handling the ones who have no documents?

You may have seen pictures of the hundreds of refugees camped out in Calais and trying to smuggle themselves into the UK. Most of them will have some kind of documentation, but if they succeed in getting across The Channel, they will promptly dispose of it. They do this because we cannot deport someone unless we can prove that they are a native of the country to which we send them. The idea of shipping them off to Belize or somewhere just wont work here.

What confused me up-thread, and still does, was your statement that your children would also be anchor babies. You’re a citizen by birth. Yes, and an anchor baby for your parents. Assuming the co-parent of your children is also a citizen, in what way are your children anchor babies?

IOW, I’m interpreting “anchor baby” to mean a citizen born to 1 or 2 non-citizens. The child is the anchor, or foundation, of the generations of citizen-offspring to come. You fit that definition. But your kids don’t.

Color me confused. Not hostile to your contention, just confused.

Same when they are still on this side of the Channel. They will be sentenced for staying illegally, then freed with an order to leave the territory, and if they’re arrested again later, same thing.

The difficulty probably arise when someone claims to be a citizen but cannot prove it (like the old lady I mentioned).

“Anchor baby” means a child who, having been born in the US, has sponsored his non-American parents and siblings for immigration. The US-born children of two people who were already Americans can’t be an anchor baby.

Same issue in Canada. The government cannot deport someone unless the receiving country agrees to take them - which usually requires both sides to agree on the original citizenship. There are exceptions, and there are cases where the other government is playing games to make a point, but generally if the person is recognized as a citizen of the other country they are accepted. I assume a lot of third world countries, their own ethnic inhabitants are fairly recognizable from appearance and accent. I’m not aware of too many small countries accepting any old dumpee since especially if the guy is possily a criminal and being deported, why would you want him if you didn’t have to take him?

There were several thread on this topic, along the lines of “how do you prove you are you”? The rules for various documents have been tightened over the years, to ensure people do not create or steal identities. The simplest rule of thumb, mentioned in posts above is your history. You were born, went to school, worked, lived places, bought and drove a car,… It’s hard (but not impossible, like the farrier) to live into adulthood not leaving a paper trail of some sort and a roll-call of people who met you.

Of course, if that is all in a foreign land, it’s easier to hide your identity but more likely the local officials will identify you as foreign. If you are local, someone somewhere will ID you. There’s a court process to establish your identity; once that is done, you are irrevocably no longer off the grid. Your photo and fingerprints will likely be in the system. For each piece of obvious documentation missing, there will have to be a logical explanation and some data to fill in the gap. Simply missing a birth certificate would be the least of the problems. Without cooperation in numerous bureaucracies, I would imagine it’s difficult to reliably fabricate a complete identity.

This topic reminds me of the movie Parker where Jennifer Lopez tells Jason Statham that one give-away to problems was that she did a credit report and his name did not exist until 6 months ago. That paper trail is far more important today.

I always wondered about this. Does having a child give the parents some immunity from deportation (if such a thing actually exists in practicality) or would they have to wait for the child to turn 18 to sponsor them? (Or older - doesn’t a sponsor need to have an income to support his sponsored relatives?)

Some potential situations:

  1. To what extent will a country extradite someone to a country that they do not recognize? For example, will Pakistan or Saudi Arabia deport someone to Israel, or will the immigration judge cover his ears and shout, “Never heard of the place, doesn’t exist!” repeatedly?

  2. What happens if you were found in a disputed zone? For example, if you were to be found ID-less in the disputed Kashmir region by Pakistani officials and brought before a deportation court, could you get your case transferred to an Indian court? If the Pakistani court determined that you were actually in Indian citizen, would they drop you back off where they found you or would they shove a gun in your face and tell you to get the hell out of the disputed area?

Not quite the same thing, but there was a CBC radio bit on the Canadian customs officers deporting people to Somalia - a non-country with basically no central government. The would hire a local charter company in Kenya to take the prisoner from Nairobi to Mogadishu on a private jet for around $25,000 cash up front. (Ex-CBP agent relates getting debit card limits reset over and over so he could withdraw $25,000 from ATMs, fill up his fanny pack.) The deportees are taken by the charter company private jet and just dropped off, no documents, no paperwork, nothing.

they do this because there was nobody for Canada to talk to, nobody to provide missing copies of birth certificates, passport, etc. One unlucky soul was interviewed over Skype, he was attending a university in Somaliland because they also issued identity documents. (After a juvenile gang career and a conviction as adult for drug trafficking, he was deported at age 24 to a war zone in a country he’d left at age 12 and barely spoke the language. )

Just being the parent of a US Citizen does not give you the right to stay in the United States. The child is a US citizen and can’t be deported, but you can be. And this happens frequently. So now you have to chose whether to leave your US citizen child behind in the US, under the care of someone else, or take them back home with you. The child is not being deported, they are just going to live in your home country and can return to the United States any time. You cannot. A problem though might arise if the child doesn’t have citizenship in the parent’s country, and the parent’s country refuses them entry. Ooops.

The only way this US citizen child “anchors” the parent to the United States is that they can, when they’re an adult, sponsor you for US residency, because family members of US citizens get a preference over random people. Except it’s not as easy as that. The US citizen has to demonstrate that they can support the family members they sponsor, so the taxpayers won’t have to.

The child is a US citizen, and their citizenship can’t be revoked, and never will be revoked. Even the nativist people who fantasize about denying citizenship to children born in the US to parents who didn’t have the legal right to be in the United States wouldn’t/couldn’t make it retroactive and strip existing citizens of their nationality.

It is a complete myth that sneaking across the border and having a baby on US soil now means you can’t be deported.

Thanks. that’s what I thought, I always wondered what the hysteria was about.

Same in Canada. Sponsor means sponsor.

No, no you’re not. Nor are your children. I don’t know where you came up with that description, but it’s not even close. Just because your mother didn’t have an documentation does not in any way, shape, or form make you an anchor baby, since she was born here.

You present a very difficult situation. You find yourself in a free and democratic country but you have zero identification documents. What do you do?

If I ever found myself in that situation, my first reaction would be to ask for diplomatic immunity and try to come up with some reasonable story - perhaps involving amnesia. I would try amnesia only because there have been several cases in the news where people have claimed to have amnesia and it actually worked in that the government permitted them to stay and gave them diplomatic immunity. These cases were all in the news recently and I’m guessing they would not be hard to find with some help from Google. Unfortunately, the only case I remember involved someone who tried to scam an American family. He told them he was their long lost son and they believed him. I sure would not want to do anything like that. Yikes!

I would guess that a very important factor in your scenario would be where you came from in the first place and how you got into the host country. If you came into that country by airplane, the first course of action would be for that country to deport you to whatever country you came from. Wouldn’t it?

Do you even know what diplomatic immunity is? Hint: you only get diplomatic immunity if you’re a member of a diplomatic mission.