President Trump plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on U.S. soil, he said yesterday in an exclusive interview for “Axios on HBO,” a new four-part documentary news series debuting this Sunday
This would be the most dramatic move yet in Trump’s hardline immigration campaign, this time targeting “anchor babies” and “chain migration.” And it will set off another stand-off with the courts, as Trump’s power to do this through executive action is debatable many say in Washington.
And that has some Americans deeply upset.
“It’s totally inappropriate to bestow U.S. citizenship on the child without requiring a minimum residency requirement,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group opposed to birthright citizenship.
Stein argued that the 14th Amendment was never intended to undermine immigration controls by “allowing people to manipulate the system so that they could give birth to the people here, even though they really have no attachment to the community.”
Many of these “birth tourists” hail from countries with economic or environmental instability; while some are motivated by the availability of better health care in the U.S., others hope the child may one day serve as the family ticket to the “American dream.”
These children are able to return to the United States at any time to receive opportunities reserved for residents, including free public education during the primary and secondary years, government aid and scholarships. They are also eligible for certain jobs, including many government positions.
An added benefit is that a U.S. passport also allows visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to most countries in the world — 174, according to Henley & Partners, a global ranking firm. Perhaps the most coveted privilege is that these children, when they turn 21, can sponsor a green card for their parents.
Several U.S. and international businesses have seen birth tourism as their passport to wealth. These outfits give promises of healthy babies, with “USA” stamped on their backsides, while charging fees up to $80,000.
Federal authorities raided several birthing houses last year in California, a hot spot for such businesses catering largely to Chinese women.
According to affidavits by federal investigators, the companies offered not just lodging, meals, drivers and translators, but also counseling on how to fraudulently secure visas, deceive U.S. immigration authorities and scam hospitals.
Despite the federal crackdowns, businesses continue to market to a broad range of clients while representing American childbirth as an affordable option. Deluxe Childbirth Services targets African parents with ads promising an “error-free” birth in the U.S. for $6,000 or less. The business, based in California and Lagos, Nigeria, was co-founded in 2012 by a Nigerian woman who herself gave birth to three children in the United States.
“I wanted to give my child an American passport,” said Agnes, a Nigerian woman whose surname is being withheld to protect her child. “We believe when we come down there to have our babies, they are sure of a better future.”
That’s why, she said, her family looked for ways to cut corners in her pursuit of U.S. citizenship for her younger child. Instead of an agency, Agnes opted to stay with a family recommended by her pastor. She also avoided regular checkups with an obstetrician, even after her pregnancy went several weeks past her estimated due date.