I’ve heard of the concept, but now the concept has a name, ‘Maternity Tourism‘.
NEW YORK, June 21, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Immigration has long been a hotly debated and divisive political issue. A recent Harris Poll sheds light on a new twist in the old debate–the question of “maternity tourism”, or birthing trips where pregnant foreigners travel to the U.S. to give birth, making any child born an automatic U.S. citizen.
This poll raises some interesting questions, yet the responses showing bi-partisan agreement across several issues and opinion statements is even more interesting. Although immigration has been a politically divisive topic, the issue of maternity tourism is slightly different – it is claimed that many foreigners participating in maternity tourism have no intention of permanently settling in the United States. Rather, they enter the U.S., obtain citizenship for their newborn baby, and then return (with the child) to their home country. While it’s unclear how widespread this practice is, this poll makes clear that Americans see it as an abuse of our system, which they would like to prevent. It will be interesting if legislators pursue this at all, or even if it can be determined how common the practice may be.
What are the motives of such an endeavor? Well, despite the notion that it’s an “abuse” of a system, the parents of these children don’t actually obtain any resident status or receive any services. In the U.S., these out-of-pocket services for traveling mothers-to-be would include medical care and hospital stays. While these women return home to their native countries, they wait and care for their American-born children until they turn 21. At 21, these children could then petition the U.S. government to allow their parents to become residents (a process not easily done and requiring quite a bit of money in your bank account). It seems like an awful lot of trouble for not much pay-off, but if this fraction of women are so desperate to have American children, what’s the problem?
The Center for Health Care Statistics estimates that there were 7,462 births to foreign residents in the United States in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That is a small fraction of the roughly 4.3 million total births that year.