New travel restrictions have been published that are specifically aimed at pregnant women, in an attempt to decrease so-called “birth tourism.”
The new rules would make it more difficult for a pregnant woman to travel to the U.S. on a tourist visa. The government’s concern is that pregnant women are coming to the United States with a specific plan to give birth here, so their babies can have a U.S. passport.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 (the last year such data was available), roughly 10,000 babies were born in the U.S. to parents who were foreign residents.
“Birth tourism” is popular and lucrative, with pregnant women paying upwards of $80,000 to be transported to the U.S., receive medical care and return home once the baby is born and has a coveted U.S. passport. The U.S. had been working to eradicate the practice since before late 2016, and the new decree is “intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” a State Department spokesperson said. Yet the focus will be on the mothers, rather than the birth tourism companies that are said to be partaking in the actual criminal activity. Which just seems…weird.
The immediate concerns include how consular officers would determine whether or not a woman is pregnant, if she could get turned away by border officers who suspect (just by looking at her) she may be pregnant, and how to determine if she was coming to the U.S. to give birth to her baby here or just was, you know, traveling while she happened to be pregnant. Consular officers don’t have the right to ask during visa interviews whether a woman is pregnant or intends to become so.
The effect of the new rules is not likely to be large, since tourist visas are typically issued for 10 years. So a pregnant woman could enter the U.S. on a valid visa she was awarded years earlier.
The State Department “does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the United States — an activity commonly referred to as ‘birth tourism’ — is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature,” according to the new rules. They apparently forget that coming to the U.S. to give birth is legal, and protected by the Constitution’s 14th Amendment and unbroken Supreme Court precedent.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary