Trump Administration Unveils New Rule Aimed at Curbing Birth Tourism

Embassies have reported an increase in women who say their purpose for travel to the U.S. is to give birth, according to the State Department.
Published: January 24, 2020

The Trump administration announced Thursday a new rule intended to curb a practice called “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the United States to give birth in order for their baby to obtain U.S. citizenship.

The rule would give the government more power to deny visas to women if officials have “reason to believe” they intend to travel to the U.S. for the “primary purpose” to give birth, reports CBS News. The department claims embassies have reported an uptick in the number of women who say outright that their purpose for travel to the U.S. is to give birth.

The rule only applies to countries whose citizens must acquire a visa before visiting the U.S. It does not affect the 39 countries whose citizens can visit the country for up to 90 days without a visa due to the Visa Waiver Program.

The department estimates “thousands of children” are born in the U.S. each year to people who are visiting or conducting business on nonimmigrant visas. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012, approximately 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the U.S. and then left the country.

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White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement after the rule was published, indicating birth tourism places a burden on hospital resources, according to NPR. As a result, the rule also aims to ensure foreign travelers pay for the medical care they receive. Visa applicants who are coming to the U.S. for medical care must prove they are able to pay for their treatment.

“[The rule] will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism,” she wrote.

According to the State Department’s press release, “birth tourism poses risks to national security” and has created an industry “rife with criminal activity, including international criminal schemes.” Some of the countries that have been linked to the practice of birth tourism “have very sensitive relationships with the United States,” some of which do so “for purposes that would threaten the security of the United States.”

It has become a lucrative business, both in the U.S. and abroad. Some companies take out advertisements and charge upwards of $80,000 to facilitate the practice, providing hotel rooms and medical care, among other things.

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