By Jarod Todeschi
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside,” reads the first sentence of the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution — words that have regularly sparked controversy and debate across party lines.
As the fourteenth amendment suggests, when foreigners come to the US to give birth, travellers are all delivering American citizens, as long as they hwave the proper visas. The practice of pregnant women travelling to a country differing from that of their residence exclusively to give birth is referred to as “birth tourism.” With this practice growing in popularity, the USA has become a trendy and logical place for a certain class of people from China and Russia to give birth among luxurious treatment. Hong Kong and Canada are additional worldwide birth tourism hot spots.
There are various methods that travellers use if they intend to give birth while in the USA. Earlier this month, authorities in southern California uncovered a competing trio of maternity hotels. For price tags between $20,000 and $100,000, mothers could be advised on all steps of the process with varying amenities. One unidentified Chinese mother present for the law enforcement raid explained, “I am doing this for the education of the next generation.”
The commissioned advice could range from strategic lies for the visa applications, travel plans through airports with less interrogating reputations, and even tips on disguising pregnancy in transit, according to The New York Post. While there are organizations that offer similar services in full legality, these schemes are often profit seeking and illegal. Many women opt to arrange their plans legally, as birth tourism is legal as long as one does not commit fraud on their application by including untruthful reasoning or information.
According to the reports on the organizations, pregnant travellers were escorted to doctors appointments, restaurants and shops like Babies R’ Us by their maternity hotel handlers. This escort service aimed to guarantee a seamless American baby birth. These agencies attract expecting mothers with campaigns centered on better environmental conditions and educational institutions than what might be present in their home countries.
The US receives large amounts of birth tourists from China and Russia. For pregnant Russian travellers, Miami is one of the most desirable destinations to give birth. Speaking with NBC News, Ekaterina Kuznetsova stated “It’s really common,” recalling her own experience travelling to Florida, “When I was taking the plane to come here, it was not only me. It was four or five women flying here.”
For Russians, Trump owned real estate and resorts are among the most popular accommodations in the Sunny Isles Beach area just north of Miami, a location notably nicknamed “Little Russia” for its proximity to Russian markets, lawyers and doctors. These Trump branded units are owned and subleased by independent buyers, and therefore there is no evidence that Trump or the Trump Organization directly profit from the influx of Russian birth tourists paying to stay in his affiliated condominiums.
These birth tourists often leave the US following their deliveries, hoping that their child’s future is brighter with their broader choices and opportunities to participate in the economic and educational institutions of either the USA or their own country of origin and residence.
While specific statistics and numbers on birth tourism cannot accurately be confirmed, the Center for Immigration Studies estimates that 36,000 babies are born in the USA to foreigners annually. In Florida specifically, births of this type have boomed 200 percent since the year 2000.
In certain cases, birth tourism exemplifies a trend among the culturally elite, investing in future privileges and choices for their children. Invariably, this trend is fostering a generation of international children carrying American passports and dual citizenships.
As China and Russia are often muttered along with the USA as influential world leaders, President Trump’s immigration concerns have been focused elsewhere. His travel ban has blocked tourist visas from eight countries, a list almost entirely built of African and Middle Eastern regions. Further, the administration has banned approximately sixty three percent of refugees seeking asylum from eleven countries, according to The Balance.
Following a three day government shut down earlier this week, congress agreed to an immigration vote in the coming weeks, set to determine the fate of DACA recipients. Late Monday night, President Trump tweeted, “Now I want a big win for everyone, including Republicans, Democrats and DACA,” referring to undocumented youth raised in the states, “but especially for our Great Military and Border Security.”