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US announces new restrictions on ‘birth tourism’

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at a September 11th Pentagon Observance Ceremony Wednesday, Sep.11, 2019, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. administration has published new visa restrictions aimed at eliminating so-called “birth tourism” in which pregnant women travel to the United States to give birth so their children will receive automatic citizenship, a system reportedly used by hundreds of Russian women each year.

The new guidelines will not automatically prevent pregnant women from receiving visas, but U.S. consular officers will have the authority to determine whether a woman is planning a visit primarily for the purpose of giving birth, according to the rules published in the Federal Register on January 23.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that the move will “combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice.”

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,” Grisham added.

Under the U.S. Constitution, anyone born in the United States is considered to be a citizen.

During his presidential campaign and into his term of office, U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a hard line on immigration, along with those illegally entering the country or overstaying their visas.

He has slammed the policy of birthright citizenship and threatened to try to end it, but constitutional scholars, opponents, and members of his administration have said it would not be easy to do.

Although there are no official figures on how many foreign women travel to the United States specifically to give birth, the Center for Immigration Studies in 2012 estimated that 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the United States, then left the country.

In March 2019, USA Today reported that hundreds of pregnant Russian women travel to the United States each year to give birth so that their child can acquire American citizenship. Arrivals also come from China, Nigeria, and other countries, the paper said.

They pay from $20,000 to $50,000 to brokers who arrange travel documents, accommodation, and hospital stays, often in the state of Florida, the newspaper reported.