The tightening of immigration laws in the United States continues. Now the Trump administration has seriously taken up “maternity tourism”.
Many tourists, including from post-Soviet countries, come to the United States to give birth so that the child can become an American citizen and get more opportunities and privileges in the future. But people who want to have a baby in the United States, more actively the situation with “maternity tourism” does not like the Donald Trump administration. Literally in the early days as president, Trump promised to “end” this.
But in that case, he would certainly have faced legal problems, since this issue is connected with a direct interpretation of the constitutional amendment.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution explicitly states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to their jurisdiction are citizens of the United States and the state in which they reside.”
And now, the possibility of pregnant women from other countries entering American territory is at stake.
Already this week, it is planned to publish a new rule restricting “maternity tourism,” Axios said three representatives of the presidential administration. “These changes are aimed at eliminating national security risks, including criminal activities related to the maternity tourism industry,” said a State Department spokesman in an interview with Axios.
Indeed, there are a lot of fraudulent companies profiting from maternity tourism, helping tourists from China, Nigeria, post-Soviet and other countries obtain visas and give birth to children in the United States. Fraudsters teach women how to behave at an interview at consulates in order to get an American entry visa, what customs officials need to say at the border, and so on. Fraudsters are caught, tried and deported, but they are not getting smaller, since the demand for maternity tourism is growing every year.
There is no official count of foreign babies born in the United States, but the Immigration Research Center, which has close ties to immigration officials in the Trump administration, estimates this to be approximately 33,000 each year.
It seems that the first steps in this direction are already being taken. So, recently, Hong Kong Express Airways decided to check its passengers flying to the United States for pregnancy. Midori Nishida, a Japanese citizen, was forced to take a test right in the airport toilet because the staff thought she looked like she was pregnant.
The new rule should amend the requirements for B1/B2 visas (or visas for visitors), giving State Department officials the authority to refuse foreign women short-term business and tourist visas if they believe that the trip is used for childbirth and automatically obtain citizenship for the baby.
So far, there is no exact information on how the rule will be applied – whether officials will decide on pregnancy at the entrance to the US or in the country of citizenship of a woman when deciding on a visa.
According to a senior official, consular officials, who issue passports and visas “are remarkably versed in truthful and false statements.”
“But the main practical problem is that very few women who want to give birth in the USA get a visa directly for this specific purpose. Most of them already have visas obtained earlier”, said Jeffrey Gorsky, a former chief legal adviser in the visa department of the Department of State.
This is only the first step in the administration’s plans to complicate women from other countries to obtain citizenship by birth right for their children.
“Rome was not built in one day,” a senior official said. “The very legal recognition that this is wrong and unacceptable is a significant step forward.”
According to Linden Melmed, a lawyer and former general counsel for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, if decisions on tourist visas are passed at the discretion of officials, it will be difficult to challenge in court.
“State Department officials have every right to deny people visas,” said Sarah Pearce of the Institute for Migration Policy. Foreign nationals who are outside the United States and have not yet received a visa “do not have legal status.” However, limiting pregnant women to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes, according to Melmed and Pierce, would be legally dubious.