Saturday, February 2, 2019

Crackdown on Birth Tourism

The United States is one of the few nations in the Western developed world to still offer birthright citizenship in which anyone who is born here is a citizen regardless of their parents' status. Most other nations, both in the "West" and beyond it, don't do that. Although the original intent of birthright citizenship was rooted in the immediate post-Civil War attempts to grant African-Americans full and unqualified citizenship in the United States, this legal tradition proved quite attractive to the people arriving in the post-Civil War waves of immigration to the United States, first from Europe and then later from Asia, Africa, Latin America and other places. In most nations, particularly in Europe, the "nation state" is synonymous with control and demographic dominance by one or at most a few ethnic/racial groups. The United States may have started with the same intent but because of slavery and the presence of the Indigenous people, the United States was never going to be a nation of one race or failing that even of one ethnic group. 

I have my doubts about the current wisdom of birthright citizenship during a time of mass immigration from the Third World but that's a different post. Today's problem is that some people are gaming the system to get the benefits of American citizenship for their progeny and later themselves without making the slightest contribution to the American political or economic framework. If someone is born here but spent all of their formative years as a citizen of China or Russia, are they really an American? There are a lot of different foreign nationals getting involved but for years Chinese and Russians have been the biggest practitioners of birth tourism. 

Three people who operated multimillion-dollar birth-tourism businesses in Southern California were arrested Thursday in the biggest federal criminal probe ever to target the thriving industry, in which pregnant women come to the United States to give birth so their children will become American citizens.

The businesses coached their clients to deceive United States immigration officials and pay indigent rates at hospitals to deliver their babies, even though many of the clients were wealthy, investigators said. Some Chinese couples were charged as much as $100,000 for a birth-tourism package that included housing, nannies and shopping excursions to Gucci.

A tip sheet for customers, entitled “Strategies to Maximize the Chance of Entry,” recommended stating on a visa application that pregnant mothers intended to stay at the “5-star” hotel, “Trump International Waikiki Beach,” to convince immigration officials that they were well-to-do vacationers, not mothers traveling with the intention of giving birth on American soil, investigators said. 

The number of businesses in operation is undoubtedly much larger than the three agencies targeted in the latest indictments in the Los Angeles area, said Mark Zito, assistant special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles. “We are talking about three takedowns in L.A., when there are probably 300,” Mr. Zito said. “We have seen more businesses pop up. It is probably going stronger now than it was in 2015.”

While the agencies charged in the current investigation cater mainly to Chinese parents, Mr. Zito said investigators have also found evidence of Russians heading to the Northeast and Nigerians traveling to Texas for the sole purpose of having American children. The Middle East is also a growing generator of birth tourism, investigators said. “We are trying to quell this, but it is increasing. Other nations will start taking advantage of this,” Mr. Zito said. 

The phenomenon of so-called anchor babies has fueled criticism from advocates of tougher immigration laws who are concerned that foreign adults are using their children to secure permanent residency in the United States and from there, access to public benefits. On its website, Ms. Li’s company touted the benefits of having an American child, including a “most attractive nationality;” “priority for jobs in U.S. government, public companies and large corporations;” and the opportunity to immigrate to the United States once that child became an adult and could sponsor a parent for a green card. LINK

Birth tourism, along with illegal immigration and other forms of visa fraud, takes away the choice from the country who should be admitted to become a citizen. If you believe, as some do, that the US should have open borders anyway then you might not see this as a problem. Others would say that (1) because immigration can't be reversed and (2) the US is already the third most populated nation on the planet we should all think more carefully about who and how many should be US citizens.
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