No More Unconditional Rights under Birth Tourism for Pregnant Women Visiting US

Birth Tourism

The widely followed practice of birth tourism has always been a fly in the face of policies introduced to limit the population of a country. The exercise of travelling to another country with the purpose of giving birth and obtaining citizenship for the child has been highly criticized, for it also helps the parents to obtain permanent residency in the country.

Apart from that, birth tourism provides access to public schooling, healthcare, sponsorship for the parents in the future, which otherwise would not have been possible for the immigrants. The facilities provided under birth tourism appeared to be a disadvantage to many countries. Discouraging the idea, countries like Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK chose to modify their citizenship laws.

However, American countries such as the US, Canada, Mexico, Argentina have been providing unconditional birthright citizenship, resulting in over-flooding of immigrants entering legally and illegally.

While formulating ways to control the flow of migrants, the US has now planned to impose visa/travel restrictions on pregnant women visiting the country. The move appears to be an important approach towards cracking the exercise of providing unconditional citizenship to people benefitting from birth tourism.

The new modifications simultaneously contradict the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which states that if a child is born in the USA to foreign parents, he/she receives citizenship automatically, getting the right to live, study, and work in the country. What is more, at the age of 21, the child can apply for family reunification to help his/her immediate relatives get Green Cards. But with the new rules, the pregnant women, eligible for the US tourist visas, will have to prove that they are visiting the country for a reason other than to have their child. 

A spokesperson from State Department said that the proposal is “intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry.”

In the past, many Middle Eastern women have taken advantage of the US policy for the foreign nationals, flying in to the country to deliver babies, known as anchor babies, ensuring the newborns American citizenship. Chicago, being one of the largest cities in the country, has seen a huge number of Middle Eastern women in the hospitals, taking advantage of the country’s birthright citizenship policy.

A data suggests that due to the unrestricted birthright citizenship, at least 4.5 million anchor babies have been born in the country that have further increased the population. In a birth tourism crackdown, it was revealed that many of the anchor babies were granted American citizenship by the federal immigration officials, just so to get some profit.

The State Department now plans to end such practices, but the question at large is what factors would actually define whether a woman is subject to birth tourism inquiry or not. Will the officials select the women depending upon their body size/shape? Surely such differentiations would evoke criticism from groups supporting gender rights, something that would not look appropriate for the government battling against illegal immigration.  

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