In another effort to severely limit “birth tourism,” the State Department will issue new rules that target pregnant women coming to the U.S. on tourist visas. The new rule would require a consular officer to determine if the woman is coming to the U.S. specifically to give birth, which would be grounds for denying the visa request.
The Trump administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but the president has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship — anyone born in the U.S. is considered a citizen, under the Constitution. He has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, but scholars and members of his administration have said it’s not so easy to do.
In fact, there is nothing illegal about coming to the United States specifically to give birth. Companies advertise their services worldwide to bring women here for birthing.
Regulating tourist visas for pregnant women is one way to get at the issue, but it raises questions about how officers would determine whether a woman is pregnant to begin with, and whether a woman could get turned away by border officers who suspect she may be just by looking at her.
Consular officers right now aren’t told to ask during visa interviews whether a woman is pregnant or intends to become so. But they would have to determine whether a visa applicant would be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth.
The Trump administration is trying to make the practice an issue of national security and law enforcement. There is something to that argument, as shady operators charge huge amounts of money to lure women to the U.S.
Birth tourism is a lucrative business in both the U.S. and abroad. American companies take out advertisements and charge up to $80,000 to facilitate the practice, offering hotel rooms and medical care. Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the U.S. The U.S. has been cracking down on the practice since before Trump took office.
Birth tourism cheapens citizenship. There is something unseemly about bartering United States citizenship in this fashion.
But the question eventually is going to be should it be made illegal? And how? The Constitution would probably have to be amended, given the court challenges that will ensue if Congress bans the practice.
In the meantime, the Trump administration is doing everything it can to limit birth tourism.