Is birthing tourism illegal in the US, why

immigration: Suspected of entering the United States pregnant


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She looks as if she could be pregnant: This was probably the reason why the 25-year-old Japanese Midori Nishida was stopped at a check-in counter in Hong Kong last November. You can only start your flight to the Pacific island of Saipan if you take a pregnancy test. Staff escorted her to the toilet and made her pee on a disposable test, Nishida told the Wall Street Journal. The woman was only allowed on board the plane to visit her parents because it was negative. A humiliating experience for Nishida, and only a result of the US government trying to prevent what it calls "birth tourism".

The island of Saipan belongs to the Northern Mariana Islands and thus to the United States. Anyone born here is automatically a US citizen. That is why the responsible US immigration authorities are now taking a closer look at who is entering the country. The suspicion: Pregnant women, primarily from China and Russia, fly to Saipan to give birth there, in order to secure their offspring under constitutional law the American citizenship and thus possibly later also themselves. So Midori Nishida happened to be the target because the Chinese airline , with whom she flew, apparently acted under pressure from the Saipan authorities. In the meantime, the airline has stopped the practice and apologized. But with new US regulations in effect since January 24, a case like that of Nishida could become more common in the future.

The situation in the Northern Mariana Islands is a clear example of the kind of birth tourism that the US government now wants to fight even more strongly - at least statistically. In fact, more and more children of foreign mothers have recently been born on the islands, in some years there were even more offspring of them than of the inhabitants of the island chain itself. In 2018, according to statistics from the responsible health authority, 575 new US citizens became Chinese Mothers born.

New rules for pregnant women - to protect national security

In 2009, when tourists from China, which is just under five hours away by plane, were given limited visa-free entry for the first time, there were only twelve. Since then, a kind of shadow industry of shady travel agencies has evidently developed: Cases are known time and again in which expectant parents paid five-, sometimes six-figure amounts for the promise of a smooth delivery in the USA. The natal tourism numbers for the entire United States are much harder to disentangle. So speaks the critical of immigration Center for Immigration Studies of an average of 33,000 such births per year nationwide, but there are no similar studies by neutral observers. Even the US State Department does not have reliable records. According to their own statement, consulates would not collect and report back the reasons for applications for visitor visas in a uniform manner.

This is exactly where a new set of rules by the administration of President Donald Trump comes into play. From now on, pregnant applicants for visitor visas have to undergo a particularly strict examination and, in case of doubt, can be prevented from entering the country. Visas in this category generally allow short stays for vacation or business trips, study trips, but also for medical care. For example, pregnant women can enter the country with a visitor visa if their country of origin does not offer adequate conditions for a safe delivery.

Under the new rules, consular officers will be able to refuse a pregnant woman a visitor's visa if they believe that there is a tendency for the child to be born in the United States. If a woman is actually planning to give birth in the United States, she must now provide a legitimate medical reason for doing so. She also has to prove that her medical treatment has been taken care of and that she has the necessary financial means for the delivery in an American hospital.