On Friday, the Trump administration took steps to restrict visas for pregnant women trying to visit the United States. It’s part of an effort to curb what the administration calls “birth tourism.”
But Sarah Pierce, policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute, says so-called birth tourism isn’t as common as the name might suggest. She says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that less than 10,000 babies are born in the U.S. to foreign-national mothers who reside abroad.
“We do think that this is a very small issue, but we don’t have exact numbers,” Pierce says.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution established birthright citizenship, which means anyone born here automatically becomes a U.S. citizen.
Under the new Trump administration rule, officials at U.S. consulates are encouraged to scrutinize the visa applications of pregnant women they suspect want to come to the U.S. just so their child can become a citizen. But Pierce says this isn’t a new policy; it’s something consular officials were already empowered to do.
“It’s a little symbolic; it’s placing a little more pressure on consular officers. But it isn’t actually doing a whole lot new,” she says.
The main way consular offices can try to enforce the rule is to withhold visas from women who appear to be very far along in their pregnancy. But that puts officers in an awkward position, requiring them to delve into a woman’s medical life.
“It’s the administration trying to say that they’re cracking down on birth tourism, but in a really ineffective way, and in a way that’s very difficult to enforce,” Pierce says.
She says a better way to address it would be to crack down on the companies that facilitate it – companies that help women get visas, house them and even connect then to medical care when they get to the U.S.
Written by Caroline Covington.