Fri, 25 Sep 2020

The U.S. administration plans to announce new visa restrictions aimed at eliminating so-called "birth tourism" in which pregnant women travel to the United States to give birth so their children will receive automatic citizenship, a system reportedly used by hundreds of Russian women each year.

Guidance sent out by the State Department on January 22 said the new guidelines will not automatically prevent pregnant women from receiving visas but that U.S. consular officers will have the authority to determine whether a woman is planning a visit solely for the purpose of giving birth.

The announcement comes as President Donald Trump appeared to confirm press reports that his administration is planning to add 'a couple' of countries to its travel-ban list and that the final decision would be announced 'very shortly.'

State Department officials said the changes on "birth tourism" would be publicized on January 23 but that details will be released only on January 24. It was not clear if the expanded travel ban would also be revealed at that time.

During his presidential campaign and into his term of office, Trump has taken a hard line on immigration, along with those illegally entering the country or overstaying their visas.

He has slammed the policy of birthright citizenship and threatened to try to end it, but constitutional scholars, opponents, and members of his administration have said would not be easy to do.

Under the U.S. Constitution, anyone born in the United States is considered to be a citizen.

Although there are no official figures on how many foreign women travel to the United States specifically to give birth, the Center for Immigration Studies in 2012 estimated that 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the United States, then left the country.

In March 2019, USA Today reported that hundreds of pregnant Russian women travel to the United States each year to give birth so that their child can acquire American citizenship. Arrivals also come from China, Nigeria, and other countries, the paper said.

They pay from $20,000 to $50,000 to brokers who arrange travel documents, accommodations, and hospital stays, often in the state of Florida, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, speaking on January 22 to reporters in Davos, Switzerland, where he attended the annual World Economic Forum, Trump suggested more countries would soon be added to a partial travel ban from a select group of nations.

'You see what's going on in the world, our country has to be safe,' he told reporters.

The comments came a day after U.S. media reported that Washington was considering adding Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and five other countries -- Burma, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania -- to the list.

Trump's original order, issued three years ago, targeted citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries, but it was later modified as it went through legal challenges.

The courts eventually allowed restrictions on the entry of some citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal quoted officials as saying on January 21 that the countries added to the travel-ban list wouldn't all face blanket bans on travel to the United States, but could have restrictions placed on specific types of visas.

With reporting by AP, NBC, The Washington Post, The WSJ, Politico, and Voice of America

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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