The State Department has issued new guidelines to prevent what the Trump administration has referred to as “birth tourism.”
Under the Constitution, babies born in the U.S. can become U.S. citizens even if their parents visit the country on tourist visas. The new guidelines state that U.S. embassy officers in foreign nations may deny tourist visas to pregnant women who they suspect are traveling to the U.S. primarily to give birth. Under the rule, it will be up to the pregnant woman to convince officers to the contrary.
However, because tourist visas are valid for ten years, a pregnant woman could enter the U.S. on a visa she received years beforehand, meaning the effect of the new guidelines will likely be minimal.
“It’s much more of a flashy statement than a real policy change that’s going to have a big effect on the ground,” said Sarah Pierce, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, in comments to the Wall Street Journal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said around 10,000 babies were born to foreign nationals in the U.S. in 2017, the latest year for which data is available. In the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean, more babies were born to tourists than residents in 2018.
President Trump in 2018 contemplated ending birthright citizenship entirely via executive order. Birthright citizenship is granted according to a decades-old interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and while other interpretations of the amendment exist it is doubtful Trump would be able to unilaterally change the practice.
Trump has made immigration reform a centerpiece of his agenda, and has pushed repeatedly to complete construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico to stem illegal immigration.