If you thought the immigration debate in the US was just about porous borders and Hispanics, think again. Two Texas Republican lawmakers are now floating the 'terror baby’ theory to launch their demands for stricter immigration laws.

And the usual suspects in this plot aren't across the border, they are half-way across the world.

Their story goes like this: illegal immigrants come to the US to have babies; after the newborns are granted citizenship under American Law, the parents take them back to their countries where they raise them as terrorists, with the intention of sending them back twenty years later to carry out terror attacks.

We all know someone or the other from Pakistan, who has come to the land of opportunities to deliver their baby, for a blue US passport so they can give their child a life with endless educational and job options, sans visa restrictions.

But the intentions of the people involved in this alleged ‘terror baby plot,’ are a far cry from that. Both lawmakers, Debbie Riddle and Louie Gohmert claim they got the information about the plot from former FBI officials.

On the floor of the US Congress on June 24th, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert said,

"I talked to a retired FBI agent, who said that one of the things they were looking at were terrorist cells overseas who had figured out how to game our system, and it appeared they would have young women, who became pregnant, who would get them into the United States to have a baby ... then they would return back, where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then, one day, 20 or 30 years down the road they could be sent in to help destroy our way of life, because they figured out how stupid we are being in this country."

Gohmert’s claims were recently echoed on CNN's Anderson 360 by a Republican member of the Texas State Legislature, Debbie Riddle, who said that her office is also getting information on the so-called terror babies "from former FBI officials."

CNN's Anderson Cooper was shocked by the lawmaker's claims and asked Riddle if the former FBI officials had given her any proof of the ‘terror baby plot.’ She replied, "that information we are gathering."

To verify the alleged claims or for any evidence to back the ‘terror baby plot,’ Cooper's team contacted the FBI.

"They completely knocked the claim down and an FBI official said the agency does not have any credible evidence that this is happening." Cooper announced.

To find out if this was something the FBI wouldn't want to talk about officially, Cooper invited a former agent, Thomas V. Fuentes to his show.

"You oversaw some of the biggest terror hot-spots for the FBI, have you ever come across evidence of these terror babies or anything like this?" Cooper asked Fuentes, the FBI's assistant director of international operations from 2004-2008.

"No, Anderson. Never," Fuentes replied. "The FBI has 75 offices overseas including offices in Jordan, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan. There was never a credible report or even any report for that matter coming across through all the various mechanisms to indicate that there was such a plan for these terror babies to be born ... they cannot only recruit US citizens as we have seen in plot after plot ... but also any of these European radicalised terrorists can fly here without a visa anytime, so the idea that they would somehow grow terrorists from the ground up is ludicrous."

To show how absurd he thought the claim was, Fuentes added with a smile, "[if it were true], I think you would have the FBI produce some kind of no-preschool list or something to address these terrible babies."

While the no-fly list pun/analogy was funny (it even made Cooper crack a smile), the unfounded terror baby claims are not. Especially at a time when the cherished principle of religious freedom, a principle on which this country was founded, is being questioned over a Muslim community center a few blocks from Ground Zero.

And the vitriol is just going to get worse as the November 2nd midterm elections draw closer. A recent CNN poll shows 68 per cent of Americans oppose the construction of the mosque and only 50 per cent think there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. It seems that the Republicans are just running with the smarter political play of the day.

Even President Obama felt compelled to square dance around the issue this weekend.

In an article recently published by Politico, "GOP takes harsher stance toward Islam," the authors' contend that Republicans have altogether stopped seeking the Muslim votes they once split with Democrats.

" The harsh Republican response to President Barack Obama's defense of a mosque near ground zero marks a dramatic shift in the party's posture toward Islam – from a once active courtship of Muslim voters to a very public tolerance after September 11 to an openly aired sense of mistrust."

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations has said Republicans have "obviously made the political calculation that bashing Islam and Muslims is a winning issue for them."

Last year, a Pew poll found that 55 per cent of conservative Republicans believed that Islam encourages violence. The ‘terror baby plot’ may seem irresponsible and below the belt, but they are coming from politicians hot with election fever. The question is will the politics of spreading Islamophobia and blurring the line between al Qaeda and Islam last till the 2012 Presidential election and if so, how ugly will it get?

Sahar Habib Ghazi blogs at www.outsideislamabad.com and has been selected as a 2010-2011 Journalism Knight Fellow at Stanford University.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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