Birth tourism from China to the U.S. actually is a problem

Jeb Bush is getting some heat for a comment he made in South Texas where he said his use of the term “anchor babies” didn’t involve Central Americans, but Asians. He’s actually right (and this is one of the few times I’ll write this). Here’s his comment:

As I said in Spanish. My background, my life, the fact that I’m immersed in the immigrant experience. This is…this is ludicrous for the Clinton campaign and others to suggest that somehow, somehow, I’m using a derogatory term. What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there’s organized efforts, and frankly it’s more related to Asian people, coming into our country, having children, in that organized effort. Taking advantage of a noble concept which is birthright citizenship.

What he’s talking about is something called “maternity tourism,” which is a big deal for the Chinese. Federal agents even conducted raids in Southern California earlier this year over “maternity tourism.” The Wall Street Journal had a write-up on the raids in March.

The investigations are likely to culminate in the biggest federal criminal case ever against the booming “anchor baby” industry, according to U.S. authorities. The search warrants cite suspected visa fraud, tax evasion and harboring illegal immigrants, among other charges.

Agents seized records from apartments where, they said, Chinese women on tourist visas stay before and after delivering babies, as well as from residences of U.S.-based individuals who they allege run three separate anchor-baby operations in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. The U.S. Homeland Security and Treasury departments, as well as the Internal Revenue Service, are conducting criminal investigations of these individuals, according to three affidavits reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

There are several reasons why Chinese nationals are coming over to the U.S. to give birth. One is because the families are hoping to eventually immigrate to the U.S. They’re tired of living in China and want out. Given their stock market crash this week who’d blame them. American children with foreign parents can sponsor them for citizenship once they hit the age of 21. But CNN reported in February there are others reasons.

The desire to leave China is especially pronounced among the wealthy. Almost two-thirds of Chinese with more than 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) in the bank have emigrated, or are planning to, according to a Hurun report released last year.

For [[Felicia]] He, who gave birth last year, a U.S. passport for her baby means access to better education opportunities. Foreign status opens the door to exclusive international schools in Beijing, where she lives with her husband, and the option for the child to study abroad for high school and college.

For others, like Miao, giving birth in the U.S. can also be a way to skirt China’s one-child policy. Although the rules have been relaxed slightly, not every couple is eligible to have multiple children.

It’s actually a pretty genius plan if you think about it. Only 625K visas get handed out each year for people wanting to come into America, not counting students. The State Department reported for Fiscal Year 2015 there are over 243K people in communist China looking to immigrate to the U.S. So the ones who might not get a visa are gaming the system in hopes of getting sponsored by their American kid later on. AP wondered how people who support birthright citizenship would handle “birth tourism.” I’ve already written my answer, which is expanding the number of permanent resident visas which are handed out. That would cut down “birth tourism.” But there are other questions AP didn’t ask. If a DHS worker sees an obviously pregnant Chinese woman getting off a plane, should she be questioned? And if it turns out she is pregnant, should she be told she can’t enter the country? Should the State Department/UCIS include questions on whether potential business/travel visa applicants are pregnant? Should the U.S. just stop issuing visas at all (even if it’s to sports players)? I don’t support the last position, but it’s worth asking.

Here’s my problem with getting rid of birthright citizenship: how would it be enforced? Would kids born of American parents overseas have to apply for citizenship? What if an American man marries a foreign woman and has a kid? Would the kid be a citizen or have to apply for it? What if the wrong people got in power and enacted a law saying no child born in the U.S. could have citizenship unless they joined the military or some other organization? I know it’s easy to say, “oh that will never happen,” but could it at some point? Robert Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers that full citizenship was denied to people who didn’t join the military. Is that an extreme case? Sure. But what if all hell breaks loose and those in control say, “oh we have to do this!” Remember, the Patriot Act wasn’t supposed to ever be abused and the Obama Administration is abusing it on a daily basis. The long-term consequences are just something to consider.

I’m not a fan of Jeb Bush. I wouldn’t vote for him, even if it were against Donald Trump (I’d write-in Rand Paul or Ted Cruz or just not vote). But on the issue of Chinese doing anchor babies, he’s correct.