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Trump administration rule restricts visas for pregnant travelers

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The Trump administration unveiled a new rule on Thursday that would place visa restrictions on pregnant travelers who may give birth in the United States.

The intent of the rule, the State Department said in a memo, is to halt “birth tourism,” the practice of foreigners giving birth in the US to obtain a US passport for their child and themselves.

The new rule would make it more difficult for pregnant travelers to obtain tourist visas, forcing applicants to convince a consular officer that they have a “legitimate” purpose for coming to the US. 

If the consular officer has any reason to believe that a pregnant individual will give birth in the United States, the applicant is automatically “presumed to be seeking a visa for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for the child,” according to the memo.

“To rebut this presumption, the visa applicant must establish, to the satisfaction of a consular officer, a legitimate primary purpose other than obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth in the United States,” the memo reads.

State Department officials will give more scrutiny to people traveling for medical treatment

According to State Department officials, the new rule keeps current regulations but simply redefines how consular officers will conduct these interviews, adding a portion to determine the purpose of the travelers’ visit. 

The filing says that foreigners will still be able to travel to the US for recreational purposes, including tourism, visits with friends or relatives, and medical treatment. However, foreigners who are traveling to the US for medical treatment will be subject to more scrutiny and face significant hurdles in obtaining a tourist visa.

birth tourism protest

A pregnant woman, seen with the words “No human is illegal” written on her belly, takes part in a protest against U.S. immigration policies outside U.S. embassy in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2018.

REUTERS/Gustavo Graf


Pregnant individuals must now provide a “legitimate reason” for why they wish to come to America for treatment, prove that a medical practitioner has agreed to provide treatment and provide estimates of the cost and duration of their treatment. Those individuals must also prove that they have the means and intention to pay.

If the reasons provided are not to the “satisfaction” of the consular officer, their visa application could be denied.

Consular officers must have a “specific articulable reason to believe” that the individual is primarily traveling to America to give birth, a State Department spokesperson said, and determine their intent in seeking a visa before turning them away.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he holds a news conference at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

US President Donald Trump.

Reuters


A State Department spokesperson said in a press conference that officials are not permitted to ask travelers to take a pregnancy test would not be allowed, but declined to say whether consular officers would be allowed to questions applicants if they were visibly pregnant. 

The State Department says ‘birth tourism’ is a threat — but offered no evidence

The State Department claims the “birth tourism industry is rife with criminal activity” and poses a threat to national security and law enforcement.

While the guidance provided by the State Department said there have been federal prosecutions of individuals involved in “birth tourism,” State Department officials declined to say whether there have been any threats associated with the practice in a press conference call.

“We feel that this is closing a loophole that circumvents existing immigration and naturalization processes,” a spokesperson for the State Department explained. “Previous regulations fail to address this national security vulnerability.”

china birth tourism scheme

In this March 3, 2015 file photo, federal agents enter an apartment to arrest people allegedly involved in a “birth tourism” scheme.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong


The State Department offered no statistics on how many foreigners travel to America to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies — an anti-immigration organization with ties to the Trump administration that has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group” for circulating work by antisemitic and white supremacist writers — estimates that there are 33,000 “birth tourists” annually. Federal authorities have taken the practice seriously, amping up enforcement against the multimillion-dollar “birth tourism” business. 

The Trump administration has implemented a series of restrictive immigration policies, including a controversial travel ban from majority-Muslim countries. The federal government recently announced it intended to ban travelers from seven more countries from entering the US.

The new restrictions are in line with President Donald Trump‘s previous attacks on “anchor babies,” a term he used to refer to citizens born to unauthorized immigrant parents throughout his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump previously threatened to use an executive order to end birthright citizenship, a practice that extends citizenship to children born in the US regardless of whether their parents are citizens.

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