By Joe Guzzardi
September 9, 2017
For many Russian tourists headed to Miami, the lure isn’t to bask on the sunny beaches or to shop at the luxury malls, but rather to give birth to an American citizen child. The practice of foreign nationals coming to the U.S. for the express purpose of delivering a citizen baby on American soil, jus soli, has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, and is disparagingly referred to as the birth tourism industry.
And a big business it is, too. Website profiteers promote U.S.-based facilities that, for a five-figure fee, cater to specific ethnicities, and provide for the pregnant women’s needs right up to their delivery dates. In California, hundreds of birth hotels specialize mostly in tending to Chinese mothers-to-be, and for Russians, Miami is the preferred destination with the wealthiest travelers staying not at ethnically appropriate makeshift hotels, but rather in – of all places – properties owned by President Donald Trump.
As reported in the Daily Beast, Miami birth-tourism company SVM-MED, with Moscow and Kiev satellite offices, offers three tiers of packages, with the top two advertising Trump Towers condos. The most expensive package costs $84,700 for a Trump Tower II apartment with a gold-tiled bathtub and a choice between a chauffeured Cadillac Escalade and a Mercedes Benz.
What a racket! Come to the U.S., and without ever having worked a day in the country or paid a dime in taxes, get American citizenship for your child who can then reap all the benefits – a passport, a Social Security number, free public schooling, in-state university tuition rates, legal work authorization, and the ability to eventually petition his parents and other family members for permanent residency.
President Trump has demanded his great wall, railed against sanctuary cities, proposed travel bans on some Muslim nations, and advocated for reduced refugee resettlement, difficult-to-achieve goals that are either tied up in Congress or in the courts. Yet he allows the low-hanging birth tourism scandal fruit to go forward unchecked, a practice that could be ended in short order.
Falsifying a visa is a crime, and subjects the falsifier to immediate deportation. Websites and birth hotel management caution against lying on immigration paperwork, but the warnings go unheeded. However, send a few Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to known birth hotels to scrutinize the visas, compare entry dates with due dates and it quickly would become obvious that the reason listed, “tourist” or “medical treatment,” is a lie. Charge the mothers with visa fraud, and charge their spouses and the hotels with aiding and abetting. Other crimes associated with birth tourism should also bring charges – income tax fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. A few rounds of meaningful enforcement would discourage future abuse.
Although there’s no credible constituency that supports birth tourism, Congress has for more than 20 years failed to pass commonsense legislation which would require that at least one parent be an American citizen, naturalized alien or an alien actively enrolled in the armed forces in order for citizenship to be conferred on his child. In the meantime, pointing to rampant exploitation, most advanced economies ended birthright citizenship long ago. Only Canada and the U.S. continue the dubious practice.
When one of immigration’s most flagrant misuses is perpetrated literally under President Trump’s nose, taking him seriously when he talks about immigration reform that would put Americans’ interests first requires a major leap of faith.