Birth tourism – a name given to the practice of foreign pregnant women entering the United States on a tourist visa to give birth – numbers are on the rise in California, according to Richard Chang’s recent article in the Sacramento Bee.
When the baby is born on U.S. soil, by law, they receive U.S. citizenship. According to the 2010 National Center for Health Statistics, 7,719 children born in the United States had mothers who lived overseas. This marks a 55 percent increase since the year 2000.
Though controversial, birth tourism is not illegal in the United States. However, it has been found that many women lie on their U.S. visa applications, saying that they wish to travel or visit family rather than admit that they are coming to the United States to give birth.
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says that lying to immigration officers is a federal crime, but proving a lie can be very difficult.
The United States began conferring citizenship at birth with the 14th amendment in 1868, but today, the U.S. and Canada are the last two developed countries to still uphold the policy. Many immigration experts are questioning the context of the amendment in today’s society.
“The idea that visitors from abroad who intentionally come to give birth to U.S. citizens would have been considered absurd by the framers of the amendment,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “What we’re doing is conferring citizenship on people who don’t have a connection to this country.”
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