Uncommon Sense

Comments, facts, opinions and links.

My Photo

I like people, books, and technology. That mostly explains me.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Birth Tourism: Time to Change Something

I've been told that some of my political views are built around false stories, that "nobody really does that." As a counterexample in at least one area, consider "birth tourism" and an article that appeared a few months ago in the Los Angeles Times—not exactly a hotbed of raging xenophobia.

Veteran reporter Cindy Chang tells us what she found (link to full article later in this post).
USA Baby Care's website makes no attempt to hide why the company's clients travel to Southern California from China and Taiwan. It's to give birth to an American baby.

"Congratulations! Arriving in the U.S. means you've already given your child a surefire ticket for winning the race," the site says in Chinese. "We guarantee that each baby can obtain a U.S. passport and related documents."
So sure, these folks get the benefits of US citizenship for their baby. But what do the parents get out of it? Chang continues:
That passport is just the beginning of a journey that will lead some of the children back to the United States to take advantage of free public schools and low-interest student loans, as the website notes. The whole family may eventually get in on the act, since parents may be able to piggyback on the child's citizenship and apply for a green card when the child turns 21.
That's right. In other words, just by bearing a child on US soil, you get to move ahead of others in the immigration line.

But of course, this is isolated, right Ms. Chang?
USA Baby Care is one of scores, possibly hundreds, of companies operating so-called maternity hotels tucked away in residential neighborhoods in the San Gabriel Valley, Orange County and other Southern California suburbs. Pregnant women from Chinese-speaking countries pay as much as $20,000 to stay in the facilities during the final months of pregnancy, then spend an additional month recuperating and awaiting the new baby's U.S. passport.
But surely, that's against the law! Again from the Times:
Federal immigration authorities say no law prevents pregnant women from entering the country.

The road to giving birth in the U.S. begins with an in-person interview at an American consulate in the woman's home country. Neither pregnancy nor the intent to give birth in the U.S. are disqualifying factors. The primary concern is making sure the applicant will not remain in the country indefinitely, the State Department said.
There you have it. As long as the woman herself doesn't plan to stay here indefinitely (or claims she doesn't), she's free to come in and drop a new citizen on us. She'll go home with the baby and its passport. Despite the fact that she lives and pays taxes in China or Turkey or South Korea or Taiwan (all examples given in the article), her little American will be able to come back, live with relatives or friends, and receive a free public education at our expense. If the family is poor, the child will be fully eligible for Medicaid, food stamps, and every other entitlement due it as a natural born citizen. And because of "family reunification" policies, the mom and dad and foreign-born siblings will receive special preference in obtaining visas and work permits.

Read the whole article when you can (and if you have the stomach for it).

Five billion people live in countries a lot poorer than the US. Five hundred million can get here by road (and even for the rest, the cost of international travel falls every year).

It seems likely that more and more people around the world will want to take advantage of this loophole. Should we continue leaving it open? And even if we don't change our birthright citizenship rule, could we at least repeal the "family-reunification" immigration policies?