SEAL an Anchor Baby? How an Assumption Became Truth (and I’m Not Talking about la Virgen María)



As details of Osama bin Laden’s assassination spread virally throughout the internet, so are rumors that one of the Navy SEALs involved in arguably one of history’s most anticipated deaths is an “anchor baby” or a child born to illegal immigrants in the U.S.  Not only has this information NOT been confirmed or denied, it is likely a fabrication.  But why?

Navy SEALS Courtesy: discoverspecialforces.com

To be clear, neither the White House nor the Navy have released or verified this information which is customary with covert operations, in part to protect those involved and their loved ones from retaliation.  This includes identifying one of the Navy SEALs–an elite military unit that concentrates in special operations no matter the terrain: sea, air, and land–as Rubén Mejía. Instead, he is named by the quasi-official Mexican news agency Notimex which conducted an interview with Martín Mejía (as did Los Angeles radio station 97.9 La Raza), an immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico who lives in the Los Angeles area and claims to be the father of one of the SEALs.  This story has been reprinted in several outlets, including the Mexican newspaper El Universal.

Read the El Universal reprint in Spanish here:

The elder Mejía says, “A few hours ago my family was shocked to see a group of military officers arrive at our house.  When they knocked on the door, we started crying because we thought they brought bad news [my translation from the Spanish].”

He continues to say that the officers didn’t bring news of Rubén’s death, but instead informed the family that he had accomplished an important mission for the U.S. and presented the Mejías with a folded American flag in recognition of Rubén’s service.

The elder Mejía claims to have spoken with Rubén who informed his dad that he saw bin Laden’s body, President Obama congratulated him over the phone, and that he was promoted to Sergeant.

Although many legitimate doubts have been raised, including military protocol, if any exists, in regard to informing loved ones of service member’s participation in covert operations, especially those who survive, my criticism is aimed at the reporting in numerous blogs and websites, the invention actually, that Rubén Mejía is an anchor baby.

WRONG REPORTING #1: The source for this information is incorrectly given in many outlets as El Universal instead of Notimex, which conducted the interview and wrote an article on the senior Mejía that was reprinted in El Universal, among others.

WRONG REPORTING #2: No where in the article is the Mejía parents’ immigration status mentioned, only identifying them as immigrants from Guanajuato, Mexico who settled in the Los Angeles area and Papi Mejía as a machine operator.  That they speak Spanish can be deduced from the interview being conducted in this language.

WRONG REPORTING #3: In some reports, Rubén Mejía is called an “immigrant” yet the original Notimex report identified him as having been born in southern California.

WRONG REPORTING #4: This information was reprinted or cited, but not sourced at least twice.

THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE: A Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrant who identifies himself as the father of a man he says is a Navy SEAL involved in the bin Laden death mission.

HOW DID THIS BECOME: “SEAL: An Immigrant” or more egregiously, “SEAL: an Anchor Baby?”

CONCLUSION: Shoddy reporting at best, pushing an immigration reform agenda at worst.  No matter your views on immigration reform, it is inappropriate and reveals poor judgement and taste to push this agenda–or any–during a national event of the magnitude of Osama bin Laden’s death which partly allows the nation to exorcise the horror of September 11, 2001. Add that Latino blogs jumped to and disseminated this conclusion based on what appears to be stereotyping of Mexican immigrants who speak Spanish as illegal.  This is as preposterous and it is offensive, and hurts the politically emerging Latino community.

The blogosphere has created a space where perspectives that are still excluded from the mainstream media can be heard, contribute to our national debates, and thrive.  But this carries a responsibility, especially when it comes to spreading information with heavy political repercussions to an audience that might not be examining other sources.

You only have your credibility.  You only have once to get it right.  Your audience deserves better.

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5 Responses to “SEAL an Anchor Baby? How an Assumption Became Truth (and I’m Not Talking about la Virgen María)”

  1. I’m by no means a journalist and I despise the work of fact checking, even though it is necessary. My information about the story comes via NewsTaco who yes, are always fighting the good fight for immigration reform. I’m sure that the agencies reporting meant no harm, but more were trying to bring a different outlook on the term “Anchor Baby”. I suppose I’ll have to go over the facts myself to get a clearer picture.

  2. teresa says:

    Since when is verifying such a top priority? Fox News has made name for itself for spewing concocted lies as “fair and balanced” news. They have top-rated programming that promotes anti-immigration, anti-Obama, racist, elitist propaganda. I don’t see this wise Latina taking on the likes of Beck, OReilley, Limbaugh, Coulter, Rove, Hannity. Why does bashing Latino news organizations who made an honest mistake make you “wise”. In my barrio, that makes you a “sell out”.

    • Viviana says:

      Thank you for your comment. It speaks for itself.

      Before you launch fighting word “sell out,” examine my record. It spans decades and demonstrates how I’ve worked to positively represent Latinos and demanded that we sit at the adult table, not because we deserve it, but because we’ve earned it. This blog just launched but will try to get to all the injustices ever committed in the world.

      In my barrio verifying information I’m going to disseminate or speaking up when a wrong has been committed, regardless of ethnic background, is called a código de ética–personal and professional.

      I invite you to continue reading the Wise Latina Club.

  3. Russ says:

    Great blog, V. I will amplify the issue re military protocol. While it’s plausible that any given SEAL could be an anchor baby, the military practices described by this source simply do not happen in the way described under any circumstances for any reason. There is no way the source could or would know about what his son would be doing if he were a SEAL, much less a SEAL on the particular team that would have been tasked with this mission, except under the most vague and general terms which may or may not be timely. Every aspect of work and life–including professional honors, family events, etc.–is kept strictly in-house by these organizations. From that standpoint alone, I would judge this story a fabrication.

  4. Dennis says:

    I am not going to jump in on the immigration issue. I am just going to say that everyone’s first clue this story was false was in the statement that his son had been “promoted to sergeant”. If he is a SEAL he is in the Navy. The Navy doesn’t have sergeants.

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