Sanwar Ali comment:
Many would say that under the US constitution “birth tourism” is not actually unlawful. No doubt these attempts by Trump to prevent this will result in more litigation in the US when people are actually refused entry for birth tourism. To prevent birth tourism in practice it seems that you will have to change the Constitution. This will be extremely difficult to do.
New US visa regulations have been introduced by the Trump administration targeting pregnant women and so-called ‘birth tourism’. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the changes as Donald Trump aims to stop expecting mums from traveling to the US to give birth to their children to get their newborns US citizenship.
The new restrictions seek to limit the number of foreigners reportedly taking advantage of the US constitutional provision of granting ‘birthright citizenship’ to anyone born in the United States. So-called birth tourism is apparently loathed by Trump, and efforts to reduce it is one of his main political priorities, according to sources close to the US president.
Under the new rules, pregnant US visa applicants face being denied a tourist visa unless they can prove that they must give birth in the US for medical reasons and they have the money to cover fees, or they have another extremely valid reason other than wanting their newborn to have a US passport.
No plans to ask female US visa applicants if they are pregnant
US consular officials said that the new policy stops short of asking all females of child-bearing age that apply for visas whether they are pregnant or intend to get pregnant when traveling to the US. However, it’s understood that applicants could be asked the question if immigration officials suspect that a woman is pregnant or intends to give birth in the US.
It’s understood that US immigration officials have been instructed to look for visual signs of pregnancy or information contained on US visa application forms, such as traveling to the US for medical reasons, which could prompt them to ask questions.
Consular officials did state that confirmation of a pregnancy does not immediately deny a female US entry, provided they can prove that they are traveling for a genuine reason, such as visiting an ill or elderly relative or attending a business meeting or conference.
Rule not applicable to females from US visa waiver Countries
Females traveling to the US from one of the 39 mainly European and Asian nations included in the US visa waiver program will be exempt from the new US visa rules, officials confirmed. The new restrictions will mainly apply to US B1 visas and B2 visas, which allow temporary US entry for business or pleasure.
In a statement from White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, she said: “Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice.”
“It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism. The integrity of American citizenship must be protected,” Ms Grisham added.
Traveling to the US as a B1 and B2 visitor to give birth is legal
While consular officials said that traveling to the US to give birth is completely legal, there are cases where US immigration authorities have arrested individuals and gangs involved in operating illegal birth tourism agencies to commit US visa fraud or evade taxes.
According to the new rules, published in the federal register on January 23, the US State Department “does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining US 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.”
US Citizenship birth tourism industry
Birth tourism is reportedly big business in the US, with some legitimate companies – who charge heavily inflated fees, offering pregnant foreign women the opportunity to enter the US entry on a tourist visa to have their baby, get medical care and gain US citizenship for their newborn.
Some companies charge up to $80,000 for their services, with many of their clientele traveling to the US from China and Russia to give birth.
The founder of one such legitimate birth tourism agency, Elena Balmiler – founder of Florida firm AIST USA, which caters to Russian mothers-to-be – said that Trump’s rule changes will have very little impact on her business.
Ms Balmiler said: “My business gets about 60 queries a month and had 45 clients last year, because Trump has been unable to end birthright citizenship. So far it has resulted in nothing but intentions, guesses, publications and projections. Not a single person has changed their mind to fly to the USA because Trump plans to stop birthright citizenship.”
The US has been attempting to quash the so-called birth tourism industry long before Trump became president, though the current US president has been more active in trying to clampdown on birth tourists.
Trump has threatened to end it, but many members of his administration have told him that it’s not easy to do.
In particular, Trump has targeted pregnant women crossing the US southern border with Mexico as part of a wider immigration crackdown, but the president now seems determined to curtail birth tourism across the board.
Birth tourism numbers
There is currently no official data on the number of foreign women that travel to the US specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration studies, which campaigns for stricter US immigration rules, estimated that around 36,000 foreign born women gave birth in the US in 2012, and then left the country.
According to the document outlining the new rules, the regulations will “help eliminate the criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry. The recent federal indictments describe birth tourism schemes in which foreign nationals applied for visitor visas to come to the United States and lied to consular officers about the duration of their trips, where they would stay, and their purpose of travel.”
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