You’ve probably heard stories of it before. A mother travels to the US in the late stages of pregnancy to give birth, and the child receives full US citizenship.
This practice, known as birth tourism, is common and long-running. It’s also a thriving industry, with operators that help women get into the country before giving birth. For a long time, immigration officials have largely looked the other way when it came to the birth tourism industry.
However, the immigration landscape is changing, and the government has begun to crack down on birth tourism. In January 2018, the Department of Homeland Security raided 20 facilities that were believed to be housing birth tourism operations, helping women stay in the country before they deliver their babies.
And in 2019, immigration officials went one step further, charging those believed to be running a birth tourism operation with conspiracies to commit immigration fraud.
It is not technically illegal for a woman to enter the US when she is pregnant and give birth to the child, as long as she shows that she has the assets to pay for medicals costs and housing. Many women have used this legal gray area to come to the US to get their children full citizenship.
However, immigration officials at the border have some discretion to enforce laws, and some will ban pregnant women from entering the country if they believe they are doing so with the sole intent of gaining citizenship for their child.
Birth tourism operators charge a fee, sometimes reaching upwards of $100,000 dollars, to help women find a way to enter the US before giving birth to their child. They may instruct women to lie or mislead customs or immigration officials about their marital status, employment, and education in order to gain entry to the US.
These operators often tell women that they should enter the US before they are showing, so that immigration officials will not know that they are pregnant. They also frequently have women fly to popular tourist destinations, such as Hawaii or New York. Posing as tourists, the women can then travel to other areas of the country to give birth.
The birth tourism industry takes advantage of the US law that says that all children born in the US are granted full citizenship. This law goes back to the 14th Amendment, where it was used to give citizenship to slaves who were born in the country but where not considered citizens.
This law, although sometimes controversial, has generally been accepted over the years. Howerer, with the election of Donald Trump, birthright citizenship has become a hot topic.
President Trump has even considered ways of getting rid of birthright citizenship. Some believed he might try to do this with an executive order, removing birthright citizenship in its entirely. That would possibly mean that only the children of US citizens would then be considered citizens. The children of immigrants, like their parents, would have to apply for citizenship.
Others have argued that the president doesn’t need to get rid of birthright citizenship, but could instead make coming to the US with the intent of giving birth in the country illegal. Women would be turned away at the border, and those that do give birth could be prosecuted and deported.
President Trump has yet to make changes, but the increased crackdown on birth tourism is a sign that it will be harder and harder to come to the US to give birth. This could affect women from a wide variety of countries, such as China, Taiwan, and Turkey.
If you have any more questions about birthright citizenship or any other part of the immigration process, contact us at Monument Immigration. Our sole focus is immigration law.
We can help you prepare a visa application in no more than two business days. Fill out our free case evaluation form, and let us see how we can help you.