It was one of those rare occasions when the Obama Administration actually allowed immigration authorities to enforce the law. In early March, federal agents and local law enforcement served warrants at apartment complexes in Southern California known as “maternity hotels” and “Chinese birthing houses.” For fees as high as $80,000, these shady outfits arrange for foreign women, many from China, to come to the United States for the sole purpose of giving birth on U.S. soil. Some have called this commerce “birth tourism.”
Under the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment, any child born in the U.S. is automatically a U.S. citizen. This is a false interpretation, given the history of that amendment, the expressed intentions of its authors, and court rulings on its meaning. Nevertheless, it’s how the law – one foreigners exploit – is being implemented.
|Website reportedly used to recruit expecting Chinese to travel to the U.S. and give birth.|
Often we associate such activity with poor women illegally entering from Mexico in order to give birth and get the benefits of having a citizen child. Illegal aliens with citizen children face less likelihood of deportation, particularly under the Obama Administration’s current policies, and the children qualify for welfare benefits just like any other citizen. Also, at age 21, the child can petition for his parents to become legal residents.
Birth tourism is different in some significant respects. Typically, the mother comes from a wealthy family and goes home after giving birth. However, that’s not before a good deal of gaming the system. According to an NBC News report, after being coached on how to commit visa fraud, the women get free medical care. In the case of one hospital where there were 400 births to tourists, “Hospitals were told the women had no insurance, so the hospitals were stuck with most, or all, of the bills,” NBC reported.
According to one website promoting birth tourism, the operator claimed to have serviced more than 8,000 women. Calculate those health costs if all those women also claimed no insurance.
So why are foreigners of considerable means seeking to have U.S. citizen children?
One place to go for an answer is China. In recent decades, China has made great economic strides. In 2013, it had 2.4 million millionaire households, an increase of 82 percent from the previous year. But as the old saying goes, wealth doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, and many rich Chinese are not happy. Some make their money through corruption, and they’re afraid that the government may crack down on them. Others don’t think their country offers enough educational opportunities for their children. Still others think China, with its recent rapid development, has become too polluted.
As a consequence, according to a report, nearly half of Chinese millionaires plan to leave the country within the next five years, and the U.S. is No. 1 on their preferred destination list. Having a child citizen can be one way to get a foot in the door. The child receives a U.S. education, and in time the rest of the family may follow.
Birth tourism from China appears to be increasing. A Chinese source says it doubled from 4,200 in 2008 to 10,000 in 2012. And China isn’t the only source. Birth tourists also come from Turkey, Japan and South Korea, among other countries.
It seems likely that birth tourism will grow dramatically if not checked – and certainly it should be. Immigration advocates claim we have an obligation to take in the poor of the world, even though we can’t possibly accommodate more than a small fraction of them. But we have no conceivable duty to welcome rich huddled masses who may yearn to breathe free of smog.
We certainly don’t need people from China or elsewhere who made their money from suspect dealings. As for the wealthy Chinese who want better schools and a cleaner environment, we should suggest that they remain in their country and use their talent and wealth to achieve those goals.
Even though China has taken draconian steps to limit its numbers, overpopulation still greatly contributes to the country’s pollution problem. We in the United States should consider China’s example as one we can avoid by limiting immigration, the driving force of our population growth. One way to do so is for Congress to legislate the proper interpretation of the 14th Amendment and end automatic citizenship by birth on U.S. soil.