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birth tourism

Trump’s New Policies Target Pregnant Women from Non European Nations

The Trump Administration has instituted a new policy that essentially instructs airlines to assume heavily pregnant women from mainly non-European nations are coming to the US for the purpose of giving  birth and having a US citizen child, according to a new policy directive from the US State Department.

It also appears that airlines that fly into the United States are being threatened with a fine for allowing inadmissible people on flights to America.

According to unclassified but not yet public State Department cables obtained by media outlets, US  consular offices abroad to demand women meet the burden  of proving they are not traveling to America to have a baby.

Only women who provide additional evidence to rebut that presumption they are going to the US to give birth will be granted visas to travel here.

The new policy applies to B1/B2 visas, which are for tourism and business travel.

Recall that last November, a Japanese woman who airline workers thought looked pregnant was prohibited from boarding a plane in Hong Kong to a US property land until she took a pregnancy test.

The policy is to head off “birth tourism” and a belief that citizens of other nations are using babies to anchor themselves to the US.

The pejorative and highly divisive terms “anchor babies” and “chain migration” come to mind.

The former refers to the knowledge that a baby born on US soil is a US Citizen, under the US Constitution, and the latter term refers to the concept that said baby could later petition his or her non-citizen parents, who, when they become a citizen, can then later file and get other foreign  relatives to join them in America and eventually be permanent residents or citizens themselves.

Hence the term “chain” migration.

There is a fear among “nativists” that the growing diversity and multiculturalism or  “browning of America” over the years is due partially to chain migration by immigrants from Asian, African, South and Central American countries.

The policy seems to anchor on this fear.

Consider the fact that the new policy only applies to B-visas, therefore, the 22 visa waiver countries, whose citizens are not required to obtain a visa to visit, and who are also more often North European and wealthy, are not to be screened.

Nations that do not require Visas to visit the US

If the concern really was about birth tourism, there should be a policy to stop any and all foreign pregnant women not just those from non European and a few Asian nations (South Korea, Singapore and Japan) and one South American country (Chile).

On the fear of “anchor babies” from brown and black nations, there is a flaw because a baby cannot petition for a parent until that baby grows to be 21-years old.

Therefore, the process of anchoring oneself to the US via a baby is a long and arduous one that would take decades.

It is easier for an adult like First Lady Melania Trump to have gotten US Citizenship to her parents following Melania’s marriage and naturalization via her husband Donald J. Trump than a baby born in America to foreign parentage today.

The new policy opens the door for racial profiling on the level seen before in the past when a lawsuit claimed that consular  officers used racial and economic profiling to refuse visas, asserting  that an applicant “looks poor,” as well as “talks poor” and “looks scary,” and on this basis alone would deny a visa applicant

The lawsuit revealed that consular officers regularly engaged in “gut assessments” when denying visas. They made a subjective judgment about applicants based on their appearance, employing letters to indicate their findings.

Finally, as New England Law professor Dina Francesca Hayne writes in a recent opinion piece in The Hill, the new policy targets one gender, women and subjects them to heightened scrutiny, and potential embarrassment and possible harassment.

Hayne writes:

A male visa holder would never bear this burden; even though, as was proven by the story leading off this opinion piece, it is apparently easy to guess incorrectly about whether or not a woman is pregnant.

One of the first rules of etiquette is to never ask a woman if she is pregnant, because the likelihood of being wrong is both so high, and so traumatizing, as the Japanese woman at the outset of this piece stated.

Troubling.

Airline Made US-Territory Bound Passenger Take Pregnancy Test To Curb Birth Tourism

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A Hong Kong airline is getting heat for making a woman who the staff thought looked to be pregnant take a pregnancy test before allowing her to board a plain to a US territory.

Midori Nishida, a 25-year old Japanese citizen said in November, airport staff accompanied her to a public restroom where she was handed a strip to urinate on. Nishida was chosen for additional screening because she had indicated she was not pregnant in a check-in questionnaire, but appeared—to staff at least—to look like a pregnant woman.

The test came back negative and Nishida said she was embarrassed but boarded her flight as planned, then later filed a formal complaint.

At first the airline defended its policy citing the practice was to curb “birth tourism“, stating:

“In response to concerns raised by authorities in Saipan, we took actions on flights to Saipan from February 2019 to help ensure U.S. immigration laws were not being undermined.”

Saipan is part of the Northern Mariana Islands and in 2018, more babies were born to tourists than to residents. Because Saipan allows Chinese citizens to travel there without a visa, many women have used that visa-free loophole to  gain U.S. citizenship for their children.

The number of babies born to Chinese tourists has risen from 12 in 2009 to 582.

In 2018, tourists gave birth to 582 babies on the islands, while 492 were born to permanent residents, according to an annual health care report by the Commonwealth for the Northern Mariana Islands.

Now, while America allows pregnant foreigners to fly there, they cannot lie to immigration officials about their pregnancy status and must show they have sufficient funds to pay for the birth of their child and and a return ticket home.

Saipan tried to quell the birth tourism problem in 2017 by lowering time-frame a Chinese citizen can visit from 45 to 14 days.

Airlines, generally, do not allow a woman late in her pregnancy to fly for safety risks in case she goes into labor, and therefore women in their 9th month would not be allowed on a flight.

A pregnant woman who is, say 6 months pregnant, would have to return in 14 days, way before her due date. Problem solved, right?

Only,  a woman who can shield her late pregnancy from airline officials, could lie on her check in form about being pregnant and sneak in to have her US citizenship baby unless airline staff can catch her, hence why Nishida was singled out.

After the uproar from the incident and blow back from the airline’s response, Hong Kong Express suspended the practice of requiring pregnant-looking female passengers to submit to screening.

“We took actions on flights to Saipan from February 2019 to help ensure U.S. immigration laws were not being undermined,” the airline, which was acquired in July by Cathay Pacific, said in the statement. “We have immediately suspended the practice while we review it.”

A  Hong Kong Express Airways rep said in a statement to NBC News, “[w]e would like to apologize unreservedly to anyone who has been affected by this,”

The company also said: “Under our new management, we recognize the significant concerns this practice has caused.”

Nishida claimed in her complaint that the policy was an invasion of privacy and discriminated against women based on their appearance.

“The practice is also unheard of, and I thought it wasn’t the best way to address the issue of birth tourism, which is what they’re concern was,” Nishida told NBC News in an interview.

 

Birth Tourism is In the News Again, Not the Chinese but Russians This Time

A few years ago, we reported about how the United States federal agents raided over three dozen “maternity hotels” in Southern California that housed foreign women, mainly rich Chinese, who came to America solely to give birth to a US citizen baby.

In 2012, about 10,000 Chinese women gave birth in the US which more than doubles the 4,200 who gave birth in 2008, CNN reported citing Chinese state media.

And interestingly enough, in the current climate where Russia is at the center of several investigations and scandals, there are new reports out about how birth tourism is booming in Miami, Florida in two parts, Russian Riviera and Little Moscow.

According to an article in The Daily Beast published last fall, numerous companies are offering bundle packages that include housing and medical services for the Russian parents-to-be to use while they are in America to have their babies and they are reportedly explicitly referencing Trump hotels to draw rich Russians who can afford it. The most expensive package costs $84,700 for “a Trump Tower II apartment with a gold-tiled bathtub and chauffeured Cadillac Escalade or Mercedes Benz.”

Traditionally, such activity is associated with Hispanic American women and men from Mexico and south of the border nations who cross the border without authorization, settle in America and have children who provide ample opportunity to remaining in the United States. Some anti-illegal immigration advocates have previously used the derogatory term “anchor babies” to apply to such children.

In the California raids example, companies used social media to advertise the scheme promising to house women in these hotels and some apartment complexes in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. The women paid between $15,000 and $50,000 for housing, transport food, but not necessarily medical care, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a report.

Court papers indicate that bank statements for one maternity tourism company showed monthly gross receipts of $213,968.79 and annual income of $1,283,812.74.

This current scenario with Russians and Chinese are certainly outside of that previous aspersion, but to some would arguably equally apply. Arguably, one can empathize with parents who are simply looking for better opportunity for their children and families.

However, the argument can be made they should not be able to freely exploit the laws of the United States to jump ahead of legal immigrants waiting for visas or to get government aid especially when their families wouldn’t have paid taxes up until the children grow up and get a job to support such aid.

The Chinese families are wary of the pollution and food shortages in China and they believe a US Passport could be a ticket for the family out of China in the future. The children would get access to good education and other benefits and can later petition for their entire family to emigrate to America when the baby turns 21.

Presumably, the same can be said for the Russians. However, travelers to the US from impoverished countries, especially, are usually denied a visitor’s visa if they are visibly pregnant. The reasoning is that the mom-to-be will take advantage of resources in America for free and exploit the visa laws to guarantee US citizenship for their baby, something that is illegal.

However, the California hotels that targeted the Chinese are routinely raided for this illegal activity. Time will tell if the current administrationwill apply the same approach to raiding the ones targeting Russians now that it has become such a big news story.