The State Department on Thursday gave visa officers more power to block pregnant women from visiting the United States and directed them to stop so-called birth tourism, or trips designed to obtain citizenship for their children, The New York Times informs.
The administration is using the new rule, which takes effect Friday, to push consular officers abroad to reject women they believe are entering the United States specifically to gain citizenship for their children by giving birth. The visas covered by the new rule are issued to those seeking to visit for pleasure, medical treatment or to see friends and family.
Conservatives have long railed against what they call “anchor babies”, who are born on American soil and used by their parents to bring in other family members. President Trump has also criticized the constitutional provision that grants citizenship to most babies born in the United States.
It is not clear whether birth tourism is a significant phenomenon or anchor babies lead to substantial immigration, but many conservatives believe both are serious issues. The Trump administration has repeatedly moved to allay conservative immigration concerns, which the President has often stoked.
State Department officials holding a briefing for reporters under the condition of anonymity failed to provide an example of how birth tourism presented a national security risk, though both the State Department and the White House said that it did.
“The birth tourism industry is also rife with criminal activity, including international criminal schemes,” Carl C. Risch, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, wrote in the final rule.
Consular officers were already unlikely to grant visas to women they believed were traveling to the United States solely to give birth. Those officers will not be required to ask every woman if she is pregnant, but they will be expected to apply additional scrutiny if, through the course of an interview, they come to suspect that a woman is traveling to the United States specifically to give birth, State Department officials said.
With the new rule, the White House seems to be signaling to officers abroad that those close to delivering a child should be added to a growing list of immigrants unwelcome in the United States, the Times added.
Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that the new rule aimed to stop those who seek “automatic and permanent American citizenship for their children by giving birth on American soil.”