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Birth Tourism in US

Posted April. 17, 2010 03:26,   


American sentiment is turning sour on foreign women who go to the U.S. to give birth. ABC News says the number of newborns in the U.S. from mothers who do not live in the U.S. jumped 53 percent from 2000 to 2006, citing data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Of the 4,273,225 babies born in the U.S. in 2006, 7,670 were born to non-resident women. These women include mothers who gave birth to children while studying or on a business trip to the U.S., but most went to the U.S. to give their children American citizenship by virtue of their birth. Korean males born in the U.S. can get exempt from mandatory military service in Korea if they choose American citizenship instead of Korea’s before turning age 22. If such children enter a state university in the U.S., they pay half of what foreign students pay in tuition, among other benefits.

ABC News calls this phenomenon “birth tourism.” Women who travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth are mostly from Korea, China, Taiwan and Mexico. Women from Turkey and Eastern Europe have recently joined the foray. Following the introduction of the U.S. visa waiver program for Korea, a growing number of Korean women are resorting to childbirth tourism in the U.S. Koreans’ excessive affection for their children is also known to have affected mothers in other countries. Such children can also be called “anchor babies,” who serve as an “anchor” when their families immigrate to the U.S. later.

The U.S. along with France and Canada is among the few remaining nations employing the territorial principle. U.S. citizenship is automatically granted to children born in the U.S. to non-Americans in the country legally or illegally who have neither citizenship nor green card. The 14th Amendment enacted in 1868 grants citizenship to any child born in the U.S., but was intended mainly for the descendants of slaves after the Civil War. Critics say, however, that birth tourism exploits and is an incorrect interpretation of the amendment.

U.S. media and the Republican Party say birth tourism is a disgrace to the true meaning of the 14th Amendment. Certain Senators are urging an end to birthright citizenship through a revision to the amendment. The U.S. is not fussy over constitutional revision, and continued negative opinions on birth tourism could lead to the closing of this loophole. If that happens, this could stop birth tourism in the U.S. for Korean women. It is understandable that the U.S. is growingly unhappy over foreigners who seek the benefits of U.S. citizenship for their children without going through the proper channels.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)