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The Trump administration will impose new visa restrictions aimed at making it harder for women to travel to give birth in the US so that their children receive automatic US citizenship, a practice known as “birth tourism.” The rules were published Thursday in the Federal Register and take effect Friday.
Under the new rule, consular officials will have the authority to deny a temporary unless the applicant can prove they must come to the US to give birth for medical reasons and they have the money to pay for it, not just because they want their child to receive US citizenship.
“Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism. The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.”
The rule does not apply to the 39 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program, whose citizens can visit the US for up to 90 days without a visa.
How the new rule will be implemented is still unclear, according to a State Department official who spoke to CNN Thursday. Consular officials may not ask visa applicants whether they are pregnant unless there is a “specific articulable reason to believe they may be pregnant and planning to give birth in the United States.”
The official said that the applicant saying they are traveling for a medical procedure could be the “specific articulable reason” for bringing up the topic.
Trump against birthright citizenship
The Constitution’s 14th amendment “all persons born or naturalized” in the US is considered a citizen. However, President Trump has been a vocal critic of birthright citizenship, branding it “ridiculous,” and last year threatened to end it.
The ‘birth tourism’ industry
“Birth tourism” has become a lucrative industry, as individuals have been assisting pregnant foreign women, mostly from Russia and China, in getting into the country, arranging travel documents, accommodation, and hospital stays, charging as much as $80,000.
Last year, the Department of Justice charged three people with running “birth tourism” schemes in southern California. The charges followed 2015 raids by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on “maternity hotels” that catered to Chinese clients.