The Trump Administration has recently put forth the notion of blocking visas to pregnant women who travel to the US solely to give birth. Due to America’s birthright citizenship per the 14th amendment to the US Constitution, the babies of foreign women who give birth on American soil, will automatically gain citizenship. This has become known as ‘Birth Tourism.’ Birth Tourism as it is known is most common from Russia, China, and Nigeria. The Center for Immigration Studies – who advocates for stricter immigration laws – estimated about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the US and then left the country in 2012. This new rule does not effect individuals visiting from the 39 countries that qualify for the Visa Waiver Program that allows citizens of those countries to visit the US for short periods of time without visas.
Likely, consular officials will have no medical training, but are expected to assess women applying for visas to gauge if they are pregnant. Consular Officers do not have the right to ask during visa interviews whether a woman is pregnant, nor to require pregnancy tests, so they will have to “consider the totality of circumstances and what comes out of the interviews.” Women applying for a B-1/B-2 visa – which provides temporary travel to the US for tourism, business or medical care – will essentially have to prove they are travelling because of a medical need and also have the money to support such a trip (for things like transportation and living expenses). Annually, there are roughly 5.8 million B-1/B-2 visas issued.
President Trump has expressed he seeks to end all birthright citizenship to children of noncitizens, but that would entail a lengthy process of Congress making an amendment to the US Constitution. The White House expressed they felt the Birth Tourism Industry threatens to overburden valuable hospital resources and the State Department: does not believe that visiting the US for the primary purpose of obtaining US citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the US , is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature.
Many people who oppose birthright citizenship believe individuals use their ‘anchor babies’ to bring in other family members and thus, begin emigration to the US. This is a very pessimistic, conniving view of family-based immigration. There are several instances where individuals may have complicated pregnancies and thus travel to the US in the hopes of achieving more adequate medical attention.
It is also hard to implement this new policy without putting profiling, possibly racial profiling, into practice. The policy also demonstrates an inherent bias towards women applying for visas. Because pregnancy tests cannot be required of women applying for visas, if a woman does not explicitly disclose that she is pregnant, but appears pregnant to the interviewer, how will this be proven?
- The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
- Protect Democracy: a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to fighting domestic and international attacks to free, fair and fully formed self-government
- Border Network for Human Rights: network to engage education, organization and participation of border communities to defend human rights and work towards a society where everyone is equal in rights and dignity.
Photo by Christian Bowen