January 24, 2020

White House move to end ‘birth tourism’ discriminatory and misleading, say advocates

Donald Trump speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via cc

The White House announced Thursday it is halting the practice of what it calls “birth tourism” but New Mexico reproductive justice advocates call the new rule discriminatory and say it puts migrants at risk.

As of Friday the State Department stopped issuing temporary visitor visas to nonresidents who enter in order to give birth on American soil. The practice enables the baby to be a U.S. citizen. Although it’s not known how many people engage in birth tourism, some conservatives consider it a “loophole” in immigration policy.

But reproductive justice advocates call foul and say it’s another tool to demonize immigrants in general, and women immigrants and pregnant immigrants in particular.

“These offensive tactics are anti-immigrant and anti-women,” Elinor Rushforth, American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico reproductive rights attorney, told NM Political Report.

The statement issued by the White House says the “birth tourism industry threatens to overburden valuable hospital resources and is rife with criminal activity….” but provided no data to back up that claim.

The White House statement said putting an end to a non-resident’s ability to have a baby in the U.S. “protects the United States from the national security risks created by this practice. It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism.”

Rushforth called the White House claims “disingenuous.”

“It is absolutely dangerous rhetoric that is misleading and seeks to demonize immigrants, particularly pregnant immigrants who are particularly vulnerable to stereotyping and discrimination,” Rushforth wrote in a text message.

Three separate women arrived one night in December at the Columbus port of entry south of Deming and all three went into labor. While ending an immigrant’s ability to get a visa to give birth would not, in theory, impact such emergency situations, Rushforth says putting such policies into place are “flat out discrimination against pregnant people.”

“It allows for completely inappropriate policing of immigrants and their bodies,” Rushforth wrote.