Birth Tourism on the Rise

Christine Rousselle
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Posted: Feb 10, 2015 8:35 PM
Birth Tourism on the Rise

The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants automatic citizenship to everyone born in the United States. It was intended to ensure that freed slaves would be able to claim citizenship they rightly deserved. Today, however, some creative "birth tourists" are taking advantage of the Fourteenth Amendment to give birth to a U.S. citizen, return to their home country, and proceed to utilize all of the advantages that accompany U.S. citizenship, like access to colleges and universities via the domestic applicants pool. According to CNN Money, the number of people coming to the U.S. each year simply to give birth to a citizen and leave has doubled in the last four years and shows no sign of slowing down.

Pregnant Chinese moms are flocking stateside to give birth, lured by rules that grant American citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. A booming birth tourism industry has sprouted from coast to coast to cater to growing interest -- in 2012, about 10,000 Chinese women gave birth in the U.S., more than double the 4,200 in 2008, according to Chinese state media.

Many of the families want an American kid because a foreign passport could be the family's ticket out of China if they grow weary of pollution or food safety scares. President Xi Jinping's widespread anti-corruption campaign has given rich Chinese yet another reason to be on edge.

"If things become economically or politically uncertain in one's country of origin, the children have a place to come to," said Leti Volpp, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The children can "then sponsor their parents when they turn 21."

The desire to leave China is especially pronounced among the wealthy. Almost two-thirds of Chinese with more than 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) in the bank have emigrated, or are planning to, according to a Hurun report released last year.

Most countries do not have jus soli citizenship, rather, they have a jus sanguinis (right of blood) policy for determining who is and who is not a citizen. Citizenship is inherited via the parents, as opposed to being granted due to the location of ones birth. Other countries require that one parent is a legal resident before granting citizenship.

I don't think it's a smart policy for any country to grant automatic citizenship to everyone who was fortunate to be born there. For example, Sen. Ted Cruz was a Canadian citizen until this past June due to his birth in Calgary. Neither of his parents were Canadian citizens (his mother is American and his father is from Cuba and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2005), nor did they have any long-term plans to remain in Canada following his father's work in the oil industry and returned to the United States in 1974. Cruz reportedly was unaware he was a Canadian citizen until recently. Being a citizen of a country should be something worthwhile and meaningful, not something to collect and utilize only when it is convenient. The loophole that permits "birth tourism" should be closed.