Birthing and Maternity Tourism in America - U.S. Citizenship for Foreign Babies
Is Maternity Tourism Ethical?
What is Birthing Tourism?
The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that babies born in America are given U.S. citizenship. That seems simple enough, doesn't it? Well, read on because creative people from around the world have found a way to turn this into a revenue generating business. A big business!
A cottage industry has developed around the Amendment and women from around the world can visit the United States on a legal visa, finish their pregnancy and give birth on American soil. According to the Washington Post, Chinese women have paid almost $15,000 for the visit which includes a delivery with Chinese-speaking attendants, nurses and doctors. To make the wait during the last trimester go more quickly, these companies offer extensive trips to shopping malls and the most popular tourist attractions, all while receiving specialized medical care.
Some offerings include transportation, insurance, maternity care and even an on-site nurse to assist the babies.
Where do these Tourists Stay?
Where are these recovery rooms? Look next door to YOUR home! That's right, homes in suburban America are being used to house the women as they await their delivery. In March, 2011, the owners of a few townhouses in San Gabriel, CA were given citations for using their homes as "Anchor Baby Hotels." Their violation? The homes were not zoned for this business activity.
Please don't confuse this with other immigration issues. This is completely different than illegal migrants coming to the United States to work and live. These women are operating completely within the rules, pay for all-inclusive service packages, and return to their home countries with a newborn.
Who is a Maternity Tourist?
Southern California has become a hub of activity for the birthing tourism industry. Women from around the world will pay a tourist coordinator and seek a legal visa to enjoy an extended stay in America.
But who are these women? They are primarily from Asia, but there have reputedly been thousands of births from Turkish women as well. The common denominator appears to be that the visitors are from large, higher income countries. These women can afford the high costs of flying to the United States, enjoying a multi-month stay and pay for the top-notch American hospital visits.
What are the Benefits?
As stated earlier, the 14th Amendment grants citizenship to babies born in America as long as the mother is "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States." What does that mean? As with most policies, the answer is "it depends!" Some scholars believe that this clause means that U.S. citizens are the group of people who are subject to the jurisdiction. Others believe that anyone, except for foreign diplomats, are required to follow the rules and laws of the U.S. and are therefor "subject to the jurisdiction." As it stands now, that is subject to debate.
Should pregnant foreigners be scrutinized? There are no rules that prohibit pregnant women from visiting the United States and any attempt to regulate them would be rife with controversy! Imagine the headlines of the newspapers if America limits the movements and stay of pregnant women?
But why would women want their children to have U.S. citizenship? The answers vary dramatically from the educational system to the perception that America is the land of opportunity. They believe that giving the gift of a citizenship of the United States is extremely valuable. When the children are old enough, they may even be able to sponsor their parents or siblings for citizenship.
The Ethics of the Maternity Tourism
Is this ethical? Some would say that this is a loophole of the Constitution, that there was never any intention to allow people to come to the United States, give birth, and earn a citizenship. On the other hand, this is an open secret and if there were concerns with it, the government would have addressed it.
What do you think? Is this a creative method to bypass formalized immigration policies? Is this an appropriate technique to allow children to become citizens?
Remember, everything is out in the open. There is no smuggling or hiding. There is no lengthy voyages on overpacked boats or midnight runs across the border. These women pay for airfare and boarding, use a fully legal visa and even contribute to the economy of the United States during their stay.
Let me know your thoughts in the Comments block below.