Friday in the U.S., new visa rules came into effect to tackle “birth tourism.” The measure partially meets one of President Donald Trump’s biggest annoyances—that children of foreign women automatically become American citizens when they are born in the U.S.
With a year left of his presidency, Trump can state during the election campaign that with the stricter visa rules, he has fulfilled one of his election promises. He would have preferred to completely end the birthright citizenship, but this right is set down in the Constitution.
According to the president, it is “frankly, ridiculous” that the U.S. so easily gives pregnant women a chance to bring an American citizen into the world. According to Trump, it abuses the Fourteenth Amendment* and serves as “a magnet for illegal immigration.” Last year, he even suggested abolishing automatic citizenship for foreign children per presidential decree.
Trump’s measure will end practices that are mainly popular in China and Russia to obtain an American passport. For big money, an amount of up to $45,000, pregnant women book a “package trip” to the U.S. Besides advice on how to apply for a tourist or business visa, they get accommodation and medical support upon arrival in America. Most of them then leave the U.S. again. The American passport is seen as a safety net for their child.
According to the new rules, a pregnant woman can be denied a visa if there is a strong suspicion she wants to give birth in the U.S. to obtain American citizenship for her child. Those who need to be treated in the U.S. for medical reasons and who can afford this, will get a visa. Also, people who have serious reasons to visit the U.S. will not be denied a visa. The new rule does not apply to citizens of the Netherlands and 38 other countries who do not need a visa to travel to America for a short period.
“It will [...] defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism,” according to Trump’s press secretary Stephanie Grisham. “The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.” But various organizations fear that government officials will abuse the enhancement. The rule will "almost certainly make it far harder for women, especially women of color, to come to the United States [...]," said Tom Jawetz, vice president of immigration policy at the think tank Center for American Progress.
It is unclear how many children are born every year in the U.S. as a result of birth tourism. Some estimates suggest 10,000 per year. A much larger problem is undocumented immigrants. According to research institute Migration Policy Institute, there are 4 million children in the U.S. who were born to a mother living in America illegally. The children are American citizens but their parents run the risk on a daily basis of being arrested and deported. With the wall on the Mexican border and a crackdown on illegal immigration, Trump wants to end this practice as well.
*Editor’s note: The relevant part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: ““All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”