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Birth Tourism: Giving Birth in the U.S. to Get Citizenship

There’s a new trend among pregnant women in China that’s sure to have right-wing pundits in the U.S. enraged.  Chinese women of influence and affluence are coming to the U.S. to give birth so that their offspring will be American citizens.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that “birth tourism” is legal, if unethical, since the women who take part are forced to lie about the purpose of their visit to the states.  For Chinese mothers who can afford it, compromising the truth and $1500 are all it takes to give their children the promise of the American Dream.  According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of U.S. births to non-resident mothers rose 53 percent between 2000 and 2006; 7,670 children were born in the U.S. in 2006 to non-resident mothers.

One couple facilitating Chinese birth tourism, identified by the Post as Zhou and Chao, connect “expectant mothers with one of three Chinese-owned baby care centers in California.  For the $1,475 basic fee, Zhou and Chao will arrange for a three-month stay in a center — two months before the birth and a month after.”  And if delivering a baby isn’t enough for the intrepid tourist, there are shopping and sightseeing trips planned as part of the deal.  Zhou claims his well-heeled clients “are contributing to the economy” by spending their money on U.S. soil.

Zhou insists his business is on the up-and-up, and says, “We don’t encourage moms to break the law — just to take advantage of it.”  Women who wish to travel to the U.S. to give birth must secure a tourist visa, and an anonymous official at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing confirmed embassy rules dictate that “you don’t deny someone because you know they’re going to the U.S. to have children.” 

Birth tourists are flocking to the U.S., and not only from China.  ABC News reported about a Turkish-owned Upper East Side luxury hotel, The Marmara Manhattan, that “markets birth tourism packages to expectant mothers abroad, luring more than a dozen pregnant guests and their families to the United States to give birth last year alone.”  A hotel spokeswoman confirmed that for less than $8,000, pregnant guests receive an airport transfer to a one-bedroom suite where they stay for a month, the room replete with “baby cradle and a gift set for the mother.”

Those that would argue against open immigration policies fear that foreign women come to the United States to have “anchor babies,” a controversial term referring to children born of illegal immigrants, in the hopes of remaining on U.S. soil.  Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, a self-described “Pro-immigrant, low-immigration think-tank which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted,” suggests the U.S. “just turn people down for being pregnant.”  In an interview with ABC News, he continued, “Do you really think that’s right that somebody here visiting Disneyland should have their children be U.S. citizens, which they’ll then inevitably use to get access to the U.S.?”

According to Zhou, most of his clients have no plans to stay in the U.S. – they simply want their children to be able to attend college here.

The U.S. is home to 11 of the top 15 Universities in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings, and in China, “10 million students are battling for 6.6 million spots at Chinese universities and the chance for a better life,” as Zhou pointed out.  With U.S. citizenship, these Chinese children won’t need to apply for student visas or pay the hefty tuition rates charged to international students.  Not a bad deal for $1500.  But should it be allowed?

According to ABC News, “The United States is one of the few remaining countries to grant citizenship to all children born on its soil. The United Kingdom, Ireland, India and Australia, among others, have since revised their birthright laws, no longer allowing every child born on their soil to get citizenship.”  It might be possible to outlaw birth tourism without completely abandoning the 14th Amendment, granting citizenship to those born on U.S. soil.  Is it necessary?  What do you think?

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