President Donald Trump’s administration today rolled out a new rule that aims to limit “birth tourism” by women who enter the U.S. on tourist visas. According to Trump, the essence of the “birth tourism’’ is with the intention of obtaining citizenship for their babies born on American soil.
Under the State Department regulation, which will take effect on Friday, pregnant women applying for visitor’s visa, could be required to prove they have a specific reason for travel beyond giving birth, such as a medical necessity. Trump, who faces re-election in November 2020, has made restricting legal and illegal immigration a focus of his campaign.
During his presidency, he has criticized the right to citizenship for any person born in the U.S., which applies even to children born to tourists. However, scrapping that right would require a change in the U.S. Constitution. No U.S., law, however, bars foreign women from traveling to the U.S. to give birth, though in the past consular officers could require visitors to prove they had the financial means to pay for a medical procedure if that was the reason for the trip. In some cases, alleged operators and customers of companies promoting “birth tourism” in the U.S., have been charged with providing false information to immigration authorities in order to conceal plans to give birth in the U.S. A State Department official said in an emailed statement that the new rule aims to address national security risks, including criminal activity associated with the industry for birth-related trips.
The final rule says consular officers must scrutinize female travelers to determine whether they might be pregnant, however does not explain how officers will make such determinations. The State Department official said U.S. officials would not ask all female visa applicants if they were pregnant, or intended to be, but instead would only raise the issue if they had “a specific strong reason” to believe the sole purpose of the U.S. visit was to give birth.
However, critics are worried the new rule could lead to discrimination. According to Kerri Talbot, a director with the Immigration Hub, a Washington-based advocacy organization, it is absurd that the Trump administration is turning embassy employees into reproductive policemen. “Women will have to conceal their pregnancies just to get a tourist visa to visit the U.S.,” Talbot noted. Statistics from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), show that approximately 9,300 children were born in the U.S. to mothers who live overseas in 2017, with an additional 900 born in U.S. territories. However, the CDC did not examine births to tourists specifically. The CDC said that precisely estimating the number of individuals who give birth in the U.S. after entering the country on tourist visas “is challenging” since the agency does not publish data regarding applicants’ reasons for travel. However, the agency said there were increasing reports of the practice from U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.