The Donald Trump administration is set to announce plans to reduce the number of pregnant women coming into the United States. This is in a bid to curb the number of foreigners gaining American citizenship through birth.
Nigerian women giving birth in the US has become a common practice, especially among the upper and middle class.
Visa applicants deemed by consular officers to be coming to the US primarily to give birth will now be treated like other foreigners coming to the US for medical treatment, according to State Department guidance sent Wednesday and viewed by The Associated Press.
The applicants will have to prove they are coming for medical treatment and they have the money to pay for it.
Two government officials told AP that the State Department planned to publicise the rules soon.
The practice of coming to the US to give birth is fundamentally legal, although there are scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion. And women are often honest about their intentions when applying for visas and even show signed contracts with doctors and hospitals.
The Trump administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but the President has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship — anyone born in the US is considered a citizen, under the American Constitution. He has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, but scholars and members of his administration have said it’s not so easy to do.
Regulating tourist visas for pregnant women is one way to get at the issue, but it raises questions about how officers would determine whether a woman is pregnant, to begin with and whether a woman could get turned away by border officers who suspect she maybe just by looking at her.
Birth tourism is a lucrative business in both the US and abroad. American companies take out advertisements and charge up to $80,000 to facilitate the practice, offering hotel rooms and medical care.
Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the US. The US has been cracking down on the practice since before Trump took office.
There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the US specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012, about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the US, then left the country.
The draft rule is “intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” a State Department spokesperson said.