Rock Center recently aired a segment on what it called birth tourism, the practice of wealthy foreigners, reportedly most popular among Chinese, South Korean and Turkish families, who come to the U.S. on tourist visas to deliver their babies. Their children are U.S. citizens, like all babies born in the U.S. Generally they return to their home countries within three months. Nonetheless, the practice has been a favorite talking point for anti-immigrant leaders when they launch attacks on the 14th Amendment.
But before we get into the politics of the matter, let’s get a few facts straight.
- Birth Tourism is extremely cost-prohibitive. It requires paying for travel, out of pocket medical care, and care for the mother and infant for three or more months. Giving birth in a U.S. hospital without insurance or Medicaid costs upwards of $10,000.
- The reasons a family may choose to do this vary – from wanting more opportunities for their children to attend college in the U.S. to circumventing China’s one-child policy to simply easing their ability to live as a future global citizen, living and working in multiple countries.
- The level at which this is occurring is miniscule compared to all other forms of immigration or to the number of actual U.S. births. Hard numbers are scarce, but births to foreigners in the U.S. are probably in the range of 5,000-10,000 per year. Compared to the roughly 4 million births in the U.S. annually – that’s somewhere between .12% and .25%.
Kate Snow, who reported the story, unfortunately interviewed no actual experts on the subject, but instead relied on nativist, Senator Phil Gingrey (R-GA). Gingrey most recently made headlines for defending comments made by former Rep. Todd Akin who suggested that women had the ability to magically prevent pregnancies during rape. Gingrey is also an active member within anti-immigrant circles. He serves on the Executive Committee for the Immigration Reform Caucus (IRC).
Founded in 1999, the Immigration Reform Caucus (IRC) is but one vehicle for the John Tanton Network, a web of anti-immigrant organizations founded, funded, or otherwise supported by renowned white nationalist, John Tanton. The Tanton Network and its flagship, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), are attempting to halt immigration to the United States and to systematically limit civil liberties. This has led to regular collaborations with white nationalists, ethnic separatists, and other political extremists to advance their agenda. Most troubling is the IRC’s essential bulldozing of civil rights in the national legislature. Recent attacks on the 14th Amendment are examples of legislation with IRC’s nativist fingerprints.
Rock Center’s flimsy segment glossed over the real threat of birth tourism – it’s not that hordes of foreigners are “gaming the system” or that there is any threat to U.S. citizens, it’s that the issue is a flashpoint for vitriolic attacks on immigrants. It’s being used to fan the flames of anti-immigrant fervor and to attack the cornerstone of civil rights in this country – the 14th Amendment.
The destruction of the 14th Amendment would dismantle civil rights, limit citizenship, and redefine our national identity to something more recognizable as white nationalism. In a recent Politico article, Elizabeth Wydra writes:
The 14th Amendment, which was drafted and ratified against a backdrop of prejudice against newly freed slaves and various immigrant communities, was added to the Constitution to place the question of who should be a citizen beyond the politics and prejudices of the day. The big idea behind the 14th Amendment is that all people are born equal, and, if born in the United States, are born equal citizens — regardless of color, creed or social status.
It is no exaggeration to say that the 14th Amendment is the constitutional embodiment of the Declaration of Independence and lays the foundation for the American Dream. Because of the 14th Amendment, all American citizens are equal and equally American. Whether one’s parents were rich or poor, saint or sinner, an American child will be judged by his or her own deeds.
Attacks on the 14th Amendment are unAmerican. And certainly less forgivable than trying to provide a better future for one’s child.