The 14th Amendment to the Constitution says any child born on U.S. soil is a citizen, no matter the citizenship status of the parents. This “loophole” has led to thousands of women coming to the U.S. for the sole purpose of having their child here.
The Trump administration is looking to end this practice, although getting around the 14th amendment is not going to be easy.
The State Department took the lead on the initiative, though visa protocols are administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security, according to Axios, which reported the news on Sunday. The administration has not decided how to go about blocking citizenship to this class of newborns, but it has looked at giving the State Department the ability to deny visitor visas to people on short-term business, as well as tourism visas to women it believes may be trying to give birth in the U.S.
It’s not clear if the State Department would attempt to determine if a woman was pregnant or not at the time of submitting a visa application or at the time of travel or how many people would be affected.
That may be a problem. Any organized “birth tourism” ring would see to it that pregnancies would be disguised or hidden from authorities. The Justice Department arrested 19 people last February who ran an international “birth tourism” enterprise.
The indictments revealed that those involved had promised pregnant women access to the “most attractive nationality,” “better air,” “priority for jobs in U.S. government,” “free education from junior high school to public high school,” and the chance to “receive your senior supplement benefits when you are living overseas.” For $15,000 to $50,000 per person, the women would be coached on how to pass visa interviews, told how to overstay visas once in the U.S., and taught how to apply for federal benefits.
The women were also told to wear loose-fitting clothing when they traveled to the U.S. so their pregnancy would not be obvious to Customs and Border Protection officers at the airport. The indictments also state women were told to fly first to Hawaii and then to Los Angeles because the customs officers in Hawaii were easier to get by. Those arranging the trips made millions of dollars.
But stopping those individuals trying to game the system by coming to the U.S. while pregnant, hoping to deliver their child here, might be more to the point.
It’s wrong, and the government should make that clear.
One senior U.S. official indicated to the news outlet that the rule set to be unveiled is just the first part in the process of cracking down on the practice.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” the senior official told Axios. “Just the legal recognition that this is improper and wrong and not allowed is a significant step forward.”
The 14th Amendment was never meant to be abused in this way. Generally, I oppose any efforts to undermine the Constitution, but who is doing the undermining? The women who cynically get tourist visas knowing they’re about to deliver a child or the Trump administration trying to plug the loophole?