Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) introduced a new bill to outlaw birth tourism, a practice popular among wealthy foreigners who obtain American citizenship for their children by giving birth on U.S. soil while on vacation.
For decades, many wealthy Chinese and Russian parents have visited the United States on tourist visas to give birth in American hospitals. In January, the Trump administration issued new rules that prohibit U.S. embassies from giving visas to suspected birth tourists. Blackburn's legislation intends to codify the administration's policy into law, banning any non-immigrant foreigner from entering the United States "for the primary purpose of obtaining United States citizenship for a child."
The lack of regulation on birth tourism spawned a cottage industry of highly profitable birth tourism agencies, which charged as much as $100,000 to foreign mothers for their services. The agencies offered a variety of services to expecting mothers—some of them outright illegal—that ranged from providing comfortable accommodations to coaching parents on how to commit visa fraud by lying about the reason for their stay. Sen. Blackburn stated on the issue:
Our nation’s citizenship is not for sale to those who pay to come here and give birth. Citizenship is for those who love our great country and want to contribute to and preserve freedom—not those parachuting in to obtain a second citizenship so they may come back whenever they please.
Advocates of uncontrolled mass immigration erroneously argue that the 14th Amendment enshrines birthright citizenship in the U.S. Constitution, as the amendment confers citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof." While the current legal consensus tacitly accepts this interpretation, legal scholars have argued that birthright citizenship is a "fundamental misunderstanding of the 14th Amendment," as foreigners are subject to the laws of their home country rather than "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States.
In addition to that, we know what the framers of the 14 Amendment intended when drafting the amendment as they told us at the time. Republican Sen. Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, a principal figure in drafting the amendment, defined “subject to the jurisdiction” as “not owing allegiance to anybody else” — that is, to no other country or tribe. Republican Sen. Jacob Howard of Michigan, a sponsor of the clause, further clarified that the amendment explicitly excludes from citizenship “persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, [or] who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.“
"The fact that a tourist or illegal alien is subject to our laws and our courts if they violate our laws does not place them within the political ‘jurisdiction' of the United States as that phrase was defined by the framers of the 14th Amendment," wrote Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official and senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
The true scale of the birth tourism industry in the United States remains unclear, but one analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies concluded that between 20,000 and 26,000 birth tourists visit the United States every year. The maternity hotels appear to be concentrated in a few cities such as Los Angeles and Miami.
Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler (R.), a cosponsor for the bill, said that the bill can help put and end to the decades-long abuse of the U.S. immigration system by birth tourists. She added:
For decades, America has felt the repercussions of a failed, outdated immigration system that has rewarded those who abuse our nation’s compassion. The practice of foreign nationals traveling to the United States to secure automatic and permanent citizenship for their children by giving birth on American soil must end.
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Updated: Tue, Jul 21st 2020 @ 12:20pm EDT