Trump to take on birth tourism... finally

Now that we seem to be starting to get a handle on the immigration crisis on the southern border, reports have surfaced indicating that President Trump will turn his attention to another thorn in our side on the immigration front. This one doesn’t crop up in the news quite as often, but so-called “birth tourism” is a very real thing and it results in a lot of children winding up with US citizenship even though neither they nor their parents have any legitimate ties to our country. (Some estimates put the figure at 33,000 babies per year being born in this fashion.) California is the home to some of the most frequent offenders, but it happens along both coasts and in Hawaii as well. (Axios)

The Trump administration has a new target on the immigration front — pregnant women visiting from other countries — with plans as early as this week to roll out a new rule cracking down on “birth tourism,” three administration officials told Axios.

Why it matters: Trump has threatened to end birthright citizenship and railed against immigrant “anchor babies.” The new rule would be one of the first tangible steps to test how much legal authority the administration has to prevent foreigners from taking advantage of the 14th Amendment’s protection of citizenship for anyone born in the U.S.

“This change is intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” a State Department official told Axios.

The administration isn’t releasing any details of the new rules yet, but this is going to be a tricky maneuver to pull off. The majority of these birth tourists are women who enter the country temporarily on a Class B visa. B-1 visas are issued for business trips and B-2 visas are for tourists. It’s unclear how any useful restrictions would be placed on the application process.

Would the application be changed to ask the applicant if they are pregnant, and if so, how far along they are? That sounds like a change that would be ripe for an immediate court challenge from the usual suspects. Of course, any move Trump makes on the immigration front will be automatically challenged anyway, so I suppose that doesn’t matter.

I wrote about this subject almost one year ago, asking whether it was time to start cracking down on this activity. At the time, however, I was struggling with the question of precisely what law is being broken and what can be done about it. The groups who have been offering “travel packages” for pregnant women to do this have been arrested in some large raids, but they’re generally charged with fraud.

Many of these groups are in California and they tend to provide these services primarily to women from China and Russia. But even if you can’t find such an “agent” to help you, it’s still entirely possible to do this on your own. The fact remains that it’s not against the law to visit the United States while pregnant, nor is it illegal to give birth in an American hospital while here on a legally obtained visa. But the point is… it should be.

This practice is probably more common than some might think. I’ll briefly revisit one story that really drove home the crux of this issue for me. One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is hosted by two gentlemen from Australia. Last year, one of them announced that he and his wife were expecting their first child. But when the time arrived, he informed the audience that he would be missing from the show for a few episodes.

He then described how he and his wife were flying to Hawaii at the latest date her doctor would allow it and having their child there. But after the child was born, he wound up being stuck there for weeks while the hospital sorted out some issues associated with issuing the birth certificate. The couple made no bones about what they were doing. This was all done specifically to ensure their son would have joint American and Australian citizenship, but neither of them lives or works here.

The entire situation is a tangled mess. I’ll be very interested to see how Trump and his team plan on tackling the issue because, at the moment, I can’t really imagine a legal solution that wouldn’t involve a constitutional amendment.

Jazz Shaw May 06, 2021 7:58 AM ET