A U.S. citizenship is worth a lot. Immigrants who have been working from the shadows for years, contributing to the economy without any guarantees, know this well.
Wealthy families from China who travel to Los Angeles for the sole reason of giving birth to their children in the U.S. also know this. The reason for doing this is, if the children ever need it later in life, they can obtain the benefits of citizenship.
Citizenship tourism has led to the existence of tens of residential homes that became clandestine maternity hotels where tourists arrive to give birth. This is a dangerous scenario for the health of mothers and newborns, since the facilities are not outfitted with what is legally required for this purpose. This problem should not be confused with that of boarding houses, which the authorities have been attempting to regulate inappropriately in recent weeks.
On the other hand, as immigrants, we think that citizenship is a privilege that is earned through years of work, instead of something of value that is bought. We are convinced that when a child is born in the U.S. to an undocumented mother, he or she is the result of immigrants building their lives in their new country. This is all part of a natural demographic cycle. Coming over as a tourist from China, Mexico or wherever just to give birth, is not.
We are concerned that participants in the immigration debate may once again start using the insulting expression “anchor baby,” propose to limit the citizenship rights of U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, or use the example mentioned above to mix “birth tourism” with children born to immigrants who came to our country to work. These arguments have all been used in the past.
Birth tourism is tough to control. We cannot forbid pregnant foreigners from entering the country, just like we should not impose ordinances that are detrimental to the residents of an areaand much less eliminate the quality of life of this society, which attracts so many immigrants. Maybe the most effective solution will be to take away the incentives from those who are in the lucrative business of selling tour packages to give birth in the United States.
Meanwhile, we hope that the so-called birth tourism does not get mixed into the conversation about the children of undocumented immigrants.