Trump Needs to Shut Down the Birth Tourism Scam


February 7, 2019

By Brian Lonergan

Even if little comes from the protracted fight between President Trump and Democrats over funding for a border wall, it will have been worth it for exposing the subterfuge of the anti-borders lobby. Wall opponents who claim to otherwise support border security, really don’t. Walls are alleged to not work, but really do. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for all her upside-down illogic on the issue, managed to accidentally say something truthful when she argued that much of our border problems occur at points of entry. Indeed, a significant part of these problems is the birth tourism scam, which President Trump needs to target and completely obliterate.

Birth tourism came back in the news recently when the U.S. Attorney’s office in the central district of California arrested three people on charges including immigration fraud and money laundering. The defendants allegedly operated a sophisticated birth tourism operation that brought wealthy Chinese clients into the state for the express purpose of having a baby on American soil, thus granting the child U.S. citizenship and all the rights and benefits that come with it. Clients were allegedly coached by the defendants to conceal their pregnancy while traveling and to enter the U.S. via Hawaii instead of California to better avoid attention from customs officers.

This phenomenon is hardly isolated to Chinese mothers coming to California to exploit American immigration loopholes. Like a burglar hiding in public, similar birth tourism operations have been exposed for Russians in South Florida and for residents of countries including Nigeria, Brazil, and South Korea in Texas. It’s all a big hustle, and American citizens are ultimately the sucker in the operation.

The birth tourism “industry” is not a victimless criminal racket. It makes a mockery of American immigration laws, encouraging more lawlessness. It adds to the seemingly endless number of foreign nationals who seek to drain the taxpayer-supported American treasury via social service benefits. It also links up with another immigration loophole, chain migration, by allowing a massive pool of would-be immigrants to come here thanks to the orchestrated birth of a single child in the U.S. The end result of all this is that immigration decisions that affect the United States are made by citizens of foreign countries. Is that in America’s best interests?

While the defendants in California face federal charges, the mothers in the case will see no charges. Why? It is not against the law for a foreign national to visit the United States and give birth here. And for more than a century it has been accepted as gospel that any child born here under any circumstances is automatically a U.S. citizen. A closer examination, however, reveals that the law in this area has been misinterpreted for 120 years. It turns out that in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the landmark case on the matter, the Supreme Court clearly excluded the children of illegal aliens and non-U.S. residents from constitutional birthright citizenship. Yet, perhaps because of the never-ending push by political activists and big business for a borderless America, the law has been interpreted in a way that essentially surrenders American sovereignty to everyone except Americans. This needs to change, and fast.

There are steps President Trump can take to bring us back to sanity. One is to order his Justice Department to declare war on the birth tourism industry operating in the United States. Rip up their networks and prosecute the architects to the fullest extent of the law. More importantly, issue regulations, tracking the Wong Kim Ark decision, that make clear that children born here of tourists or illegal aliens are not birthright citizens. Those regulations, if upheld by the Supreme Court after the inevitable court challenges, would dry up the birth tourism industry at its source. Given the Court’s current rightward tilt and the likelihood of at least one more Trump nominee, the prospects of a favorable decision on the issue are as good as they may ever be.

President Trump’s emphasis on a physical barrier for our southern border is an admirable one. Stemming the flow of illegal passage would be a solid victory in the effort to preserve American sovereignty. In a broader sense, his immigration policy should mirror his campaign rhetoric for energy policy: all of the above.

A wall is important, but it should not be done at the exclusion of other meaningful efforts to confront the exploitation of our immigration laws. Any option on the table—especially in areas that do not require the approval of a recalcitrant Congress—should be deployed in an all-fronts attack on this most complex and insidious problem. When presented with the facts on birthright citizenship and the birth tourism scam in particular, a majority of Americans would likely give their support to the cause. The time to act on this is now.

Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.

Also published at: Brian Lonergan, Trump Needs to Shut Down the Birth Tourism Scam, The Hill, February 7, 2019.

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