Birth Tourism is actually a form of tourism where people travel to a destination country for the sole intention of giving birth. As bizarre as it may sound, birth tourism is a flourishing form of tourism. Women from the East Asian countries, especially South Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and even Indonesia have regularly been traveling to the United States of America, to give birth to their babies. As a result, the United States of America has emerged as the most favoured destination for Birth Tourism.
Where it is Prevalent
The South East Asian community may not be the only region building up on this novel concept where ‘anchor children’ are often used to net in the parents into the social service grid offered by the United States government. In fact countries like Jamaica, Mexico and other South American and African countries also seek to give birth in the United States of America and secure a future not only for their child, but also for themselves, all this at the expense of the country’s taxpayers.
Giving birth in the United States, whatever the nationality of the person, is not illegal. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution allows any person born on its soil, irrespective of the nationality of the parents, the right to become a citizen of the United States of America. This has led to a spurt of other associated businesses which take care of arrangements as myriad as visa, staying quarters, birthing facilities, and post natal care. Of course the certification of citizenship is the real reason for so many women coming to the United States during their third trimester. All of this has led to some amount of resentment, especially in neighbourhoods where all these birthing quarters exists. Birth Tourism has thus invaded the quiet and quaint neighbourhoods of the United States and has brought with it the sort of noise and activity that is so typical of a business.
Birth Tourism - The Reasons
It really is quite difficult to comprehend and conceptualise the strategy to gain a foothold in the United States, especially within the social dragnet that the country offers. Making matters far more difficult to understand is the fact that the benefits that accrue out of such births come into effect after a considerable lag of time – at least after 21 years. So what are the benefits that are up for grabs?
- For one, a child’s right to citizenship gives him or her access to the country’s social security measures, especially when it comes to education. The child can automatically have access to the US colleges and Universities and even finds it simpler to avail of scholarships and other such offers available to US students.
- Another reason for the boom in Birth Tourism is that it enables the parents of the child to get social security measures under the US Constitution. Since the 1950s, the policy of chain migration has allowed US citizens to sponsor their parents, spouses, minor and adult children. In case of anchor children, the relatives are eligible for visas once the child reaches 21 years. The long wait is thus hardly a deterrent. US immigration officials although concerned are nevertheless not able to do much as the law provides for this kind of facility. However they are unanimous in their opinion that all this is tantamount to taking advantage of a loophole.
- Yet another reason for women opting for birth in the United States of America is that it enables their offsprings, especially a male child, to escape compulsory military services in the country of origin. In South Korea for example, all male members have to do a stint with the army. This can be avoided if the child opts for an United States citizenship at the age of 21 years.
Birth Tourism- Giving rise To a Mini Industry
There are a lot of women who are opting for giving birth out of their countries just so that the child may be a citizen of a country that grants a lot more social security cover for its citizens. United States of America is a much preferred destination for not only does it allow for a system of dual citizenship up till the child is able to choose when he or she is 21 years, but also the much hyped American Life Style that has been sold to millions as a brand. The prosperity of the United States of America and its willingness to share its bounties are under severe exploitation by the immigrants, especially those who play it out through ‘anchor babies’. The American concept of a welfare state has a lot of contribution to the booming phenomenon of birth tourism.
Los Angeles, New Jersey, NewYork, Boston, Hawaii and even Guam are much preferred destinations due to the presence of a large Non America population. It is here that these industries that look after every thing from picking up the person from the airport, right up to arranging for the birth registration papers etc. manage to thrive.
Most of the persons who come to America are people who have a lot of money. In fact many of them also hold good positions in their own countries. So they find it very easy to obtain a tourist visa. In fact most persons are loathe to stay back once the child is born and the registration papers are in order. All of this requires money and persons entering this arrangement usually prefer having their transactions in cash. Once again this works to the advantage of all those working as a part of the birth tourism industry. In fact there is a website that is dedicated to the gamut of services that can be offered – www.birthinusa.com.
Most of the service providers in this sector operate discreetly, relying on word of mouth for their clientele. However there are some that market aggressively, such as Hana Medical Center. The South Korean-run Hana Medical Centre has three centers for expectant mothers in the Los Angeles area and last year opened an elegantly furnished postnatal facility called Larchmont Villa, in L.A.'s Koreatown, where women can stay until it is time to fly home. However even here there is not much information that is available.
Birth Tourism – The Immigration Angle
Until the 1960s, the United States averaged about 250,000 immigrants a year. Currently, they are naturalizing about 1,000,000 foreigners every year. In addition, the government records that 1,000,000 people come here to stay illegally every year. So the current rate of growth is roughly ten times larger than the immigration rate in 1960s. It is estimated that the immigration population will be double for the USA in the coming years.
The Immigration Officials are opposed to this pressure put on the federal social structure and federal resources. However there is little one can actually do now unless there are a new set of rules that strictly forbid births in the USA. This under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution is impossible as the constitution has upheld the right to citizenship of children, even those of illegal immigrants. In fact the whole amendment was added after the Civil War to bestow the right on the descendants of slaves. With such ideals as a back up, the state has shown itself to be extremely magnanimous especially to those who come looking for better livelihood opportunities. However birth tourism has become some sort of a racket that is exploitative of the loopholes in the constitution.
The Ethics of Birth Tourism
While most parents do have the best intentions of their child and do want to give him or her best, this is really taking things into unethical waters. Questions regarding one’s pride for the country and a feeling of nationalism do crop up and there are no straight answers here. The entire debate revolves around the right of the individual to seek a better life for himself, and especially for his children. It also questions the control of a state over its citizens. Can a state plug the aspirations of its people? At the way things are moving, the answer is probably not.
There is a huge amount of resentment in countries like South Korea, especially among the poor who say that the army survives on the services of the poor who cannot afford the money to go tot eh USA and buy a citizenship for their children. So their children have to enlist themselves in the army. How fair is this?
Birth Tourism – Probable Solutions
Birth Tourism does address the problem of illegal immigration at a larger level. One can hardly gloss over the problem since it is impacting several issues related to heath, education and social security measures that are available to people on the soil of America. The source of the problem, the possible solutions are open to immense debate and discussions, yet the brewing resentment among the people of America is beginning to rear its head.
One way to address the problem is to remove all incentives for such kind of illegal immigration. Of course this requires policy changes in both countries and this needs more understanding of the conditions under which people want to go to another country to give birth.
The 14th Amendment brought into existence by the 39th Congress did not intend to provide automatic citizenship rights. In fact, the understanding of the jurisdictional requirement at the time of ratification was that it required persons born in the United States to owe no other allegiances. According to the Congress which passed the 14th Amendment and similar civil rights acts at the time, this excluded children born of foreigners, whether they were in the United States legally or illegally.
The change in the entire way things were looked at came with the Supreme Courts decision in the United States v. Wong Kim Ark in 1898.this decision borrowed from the English Common Law Doctrine of Jus Soli where all persons born under British authority were subjects of the Crown. However there were glaring differences in the rationale behind such a decisions in both countries. Where the English Crown looked to expanding its jurisdiction, the drafters of the 14th Amendment wanted to grant citizenship rights especially to coloured immigrants and their children. It is ironical that the very same country from which the drafters borrowed has in fact repealed the provision of dual citizenship.
Today the injurious effects of the amendment stand more stark and real. The effect of a ballooning number of families due to the system of anchor children and subsequent chain migration has put a huge strain on the government subsidized social welfare facilities. Also employment areas for US citizens are under a huge strain. This has led to certain sections urging the US Congress to use its powers under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment; either to clearly define who are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States or to abolish birthright citizenship for all such immigrants who come in for such a short time.