‘Birth Tourism’ Targeted By Trump Administration With New Visa Rules

Supermajority Education Fund

January 24, 2020

The Trump administration unveiled new rules on Jan. 23 to restrict visas for pregnant people or people perceived to be pregnant from visiting the U.S. ostensibly to give birth in America or to give their children a path to American citizenship. The rules go into effect on Jan. 24.

“The [State] Department does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the United States — an activity commonly referred to as ‘birth tourism’ — is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature, for purposes of consular officers adjudicating applications for B nonimmigrant visas,” the rules, via the Federal Register, read.

While there have been “scattered” cases of birth tourism agency operators being arrested for visa fraud and tax evasion, according to The Associated Press, traveling to the U.S. to give birth is legal. Yet under these new rules, pregnant people applying for a visa to visit the U.S. are now required to demonstrate a reason for visiting besides giving birth.

“Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.

The rules for those pursuing medical treatment in the U.S. are also given a heightened level of scrutiny. A visa applicant must show that an American doctor has agreed to provide the treatment as well as show “the means and intent to pay for the medical treatment and all incidental expenses, including transportation and living expenses” either on their own or with “pre-arranged assistance.”

For Dr. Mai Fleming, a family and community medicine physician in California and Fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, the idea of denying visas for someone even thought to be pregnant sets a “dangerous precedent for federally sanctioned discrimination against pregnant people or people even perceived to be pregnant,” she told Supermajority News. “We don’t impose on people for any other medical condition.”

Consular offices will reportedly use “visual cues” to trigger questioning about whether or not they are pregnant, which “paired with other implicit biases or explicit biases,” could “lead to a dangerous combination that is really highly concerning,” Fleming added.

The Trump administration has tried to frighten immigrants receiving medical care in the U.S. before. There were reports of Custom and Border Protection agents waiting outside an undocumented patient’s hospital room for nearly five hours in Florida in October.

What these rules do, Fleming said, is to “really strip the rights of people who are pregnant from visiting the U.S., to visit family, to see New York City for the time, to do any number of things tourists come to this country to do solely based on their pregnancy status. What it really does is create a precedent for discrimination.”