According to AP News, South Florida is experiencing a boom in “birth tourism,” especially from Russian women. Every year, hundreds of pregnant women from Russia pay anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 to brokers who can arrange travel documents and accommodations so that they can give birth in the U.S. and have their children become American citizens.
The cost is high, but the rewards are arguably higher in the eyes of pregnant Russian women. More, the treatment women receive in maternity wards in South Florida is infinitely better than the treatment they receive in Russian hospitals.
This practice of “birth tourism” includes women from China and Nigeria as well.
President Trump has criticized the part of the U.S. Constitution that allows “birthright citizenship” and he has promised to end that. Legal experts are unsure if he can actually do so.
Although there have been some arrests of birth tourism agents for committing visa fraud or tax evasion, it it legal to come to the U.S. to give birth. Russian women have said in interviews that they were honest about their intentions when they applied for visas. The Center for Immigration Studies has estimated that in 2012, approximately 36,000 foreign women gave birth in the U.S. and then left the country.
South Florida is a popular destination among Russian women because of both the tropical weather and the large population of Russian-speakers.
“With $30,000, we would not be able to buy an apartment for our child or do anything, really. But we could give her freedom. That’s actually really cool,” said Olga Zemlyanaya, who delivered her baby in December and stayed in Florida until her child could get a U.S. passport.
If a child holds a U.S. passport, they can apply for “green card” immigration status for their parents once they turn 21. A U.S. passport also gives the holder more travel opportunities than a Russian one.
Trump has spoken out against birthright citizenship, and last fall even said he was considering taking action to revoke citizenship for babies born to foreign women on U.S. soil. The American Civil Liberties Union, along with former House Speaker Paul Ryan, said that the practice could not be ended with an order.
The Center for Immigration Studies, on the other hand, said that the practice should be stopped. “
We should definitely do everything we can to end it, because it makes a mockery of citizenship,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Russian lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said the country can not disallow women from giving birth abroad. Many women also travel to Germany and Israel.
“Trump is doing everything right, because this law is used as a ploy. People who have nothing to do with the U.S. use it to become citizens,” Zhirinovsky said.
Florida residents don’t seem to have a problem with the birth tourism industry in their state, as it brings in sizeable revenue.