August 11th, 2010
04:30 PM ET

Reporter's Notebook: How common is 'Birth Tourism'?

Gary Tuchman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares in part that "all persons born...in the United States..are citizens of the United States."

That is precisely why a Mexican mother I just met came to the U.S. while pregnant. Lupita did not want to use her last name, but told me she used a tourist visa to come to the U.S. in order to give birth to her son who is now 3 years old.

Hector is now a dual citizen of Mexico and the U.S. His parents remain only Mexican citizens. The whole family remains in Mexico, but Lupita wants her son to have options to live in the United States some day if he so chooses.

Also, she acknowledges that when he is an adult, Hector can help his parents become U.S. citizens.

There is a movement underway by some political leaders to make changes to the 14th Amendment as part of a broader plan to implement immigration reform. But Lupita believes that is unfair. She says all the world's children deserve the same treatment in life.

How common is "birth tourism?" Apparently, quite common. In the year Hector was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the state reported at least 60,000 births to undocumented mothers. And amazingly, in the public hospital where Hector was born, officials tell us they estimate 70 percent of their births are to undocumented mothers. Not all those mothers come to the U.S. specifically to have their children; but all the children have something in common. They are all U.S. citizens.

Filed under: Gary Tuchman • Immigration
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Larry

    Who's paying the hospital bill? The 14th amendment is all well and good, but if the taxpayer is stuck with the bill, they're not "tourists" but public charges.

    August 11, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  2. Tee Ar @ FB

    Down with chain migration. Let the rich judges in dirty black robes accommodate, from their own salaries, the dozens of relatives of each "anchor/ jackpot baby." Upon the 18th birthday, the natural born citizen gets to invite in uncles & cousins, too.

    August 11, 2010 at 5:54 am |
  3. rose c

    I am rose, as in San Antonio Rose, a Texan to the core, born and raized and proud...but OMG...i never thought i'd see the day i'm embarassed to be TEXAN...

    August 11, 2010 at 5:30 am |
  4. barbara from Castle Rock, CO

    I saw some disbelief on Anderson's face as he listened to the Republican from Houston; and indeed maybe a tad of intellectual derision? I hope not, as I really respect you.. You need to go down the the border of Texas, try ElPaso, or Brownsville. Check out what's going on down there with the birthing ...some of these poor girls wait so long to start across the bridge they have their babies on the bridge itself, which nobody wants to happen. Yes, they get alot of free federal and state aid for their child, and that in effect improves the Moms living condition. You really need to study this, it has been the normal pattern of that area, along the border. It'd be a good gig for you now, while everyone is hot on the topic, one way or the other. You will find it to be very interesting. I lived there twenty years, people aren't mean down there, they are pretty much resigned at this point. Thanks for listening...

    August 11, 2010 at 2:59 am |
  5. J.V.Hodgson

    First the idea that weathy people come to have a child born in the US is more likely for medical reasons than gaining citizenship. In fact many countries do not allow a person to hold two passports or claim more than one citizenship, different to that of the parents.
    Second my business career took me all over the world, and I met many people in the same position ( posted/working overseas, some who had been away from thier home country for many years). When they had children it was never an issue ( many cases the wife went home to US or UK or France/Germany to give birth) they also became citizens of Mum and dads country by choice not a big debate. My guess is that's the norm.
    But the Mexican and other illegal immigration into US, points to a hole in the well intentioned 14th Amendment.
    Relatively easy to solve the problem legislatively by saying that children primarily bear the nationality/citizenship of thier parents, unless the parents ( non US nationals) are in the US legally ( not just as tourists but with adequate stay visa's and passports work permits social security numbers etc) when they may choose which citizenship, but must show passport and valid documents to be in US. If illegally in the USA then automatically citizenship is of the parents home country.
    Oh and by the way how come as was suggested on the show people can come and have free treatment, as I understood it if you have no US private insurance you have to pay, and sure that leads to a lot of bad debts, but ( a way to track illegals), for sure the rich foreigners will pay privately.
    Birthing a terrorist who may come back to US 20-30 years later is pure Xenophobia.

    August 11, 2010 at 12:31 am |
  6. Tiffany

    If that's the case then every body needs to go back to their country beacuse this country is full of immigrants and first of all this country was stolen from the native american by the europeans so if that's the case the people that should be complaning it should be the native americans beacuse this was their land first

    August 11, 2010 at 12:12 am |
  7. Eric

    I agree with the above comment. As an American in tired of my tax money going to support many of these services granted to illegal immigrants. I've worked all my life and payed taxes and yet during hard times I'm denied alit of these services that are granted to illigal immigrants.

    August 10, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
  8. Sunny Han

    Take South Korea. If you have a U.S.passport you can choose whether or not you want to stay as a U.S. Citizen and not go to the mandatory military service. Irresponsible and somewhat non patriotic it may sound, but two years of your young busy years can be a big burden,which is why many Korean mothers fly over for their children,especially if they are expecting sons. But really, who can you blame?

    August 10, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  9. Miss_305

    I think this is wrong!!! Why is it that us AMERICANS have to pay for the birth, education etc etc...but Illigals get everything for free or lower cost? What about the government helping out their own people? I say the Government needs to get their priorites straight.

    August 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  10. Augsbee

    So should we have a law that says that the child born in the U.S. stays in the U.S. but the parent/s must go back to their country? Would such a law discourage "birth tourism"; illegal aliens giving birth in the U.S? And as erin wrote, "add a clause stating they cannot help their parents become citizens"?
    Add a clause that if the parents take the child with them, the child can not re-enter the U.S until the age of 25????

    August 10, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
  11. Ashkan

    What is interesting about this is that Lupita was here legally. So even if the 14th Amendment is changed to not grant citizenship to the children who were born to illegal immigrants, Lupita's son, and countless thousands of others, would still be in the clear. This is definitely complicated and not as cut and dry as either side claims.

    August 10, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  12. Lynnette Perry

    Very. Even in men, in a way? My grandpa stowed away on a boat from POland in the early 1900's to marry here and have his kids here. He became legal by joining the military, But came here to make sure his kids were born to a wife that would make them legal Americans WHILE he was young. Hiis friend was shot trying to come here illegally off the boat, My grandfather ran and fond a wife over a few years later..then joined the military so HE could also be legal here with his kids.

    August 10, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  13. Annie Kate

    What about a residency requirement for one of the parents of the baby or a requirement that the mother have a valid green card. I just don't think its fair to those of us who have paid taxes for years for this to go on. Our health costs are enormous and for every Mexican baby born here in this country it costs of tens of thousands of dollars once all the hospital and doctor bills are paid. To me this is like me expecting to go across the border to Canada and using their health system without residing there or paying taxes – the Canadians wouldn't like that and probably don't allow it.

    August 10, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
  14. erin

    This is interesting because there is no clear place to draw the line. Should children be punished for their parents decision? Do you add a clauses stating they cannot help their parents become citizens? Do you say only children of people who came here and "accidentally" gave birth are legally citizens? Who determines it was not intentional? Do we ban pregnant women from traveling to the united states- especially in their third trimester? No matter what decision they make, this will not end well.

    August 10, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  15. Stephanie O

    The US is in the minority when it comes to granting citizenship to everyone born on its soil. What's "fair" when it comes to granting citizenship? The US is under no obligation to continue with the status quo given how many people are taking advantage of the rules. How fair is it for the US federal and state governments to fund hospitals for birth tourists to have their babies in?

    I'm all for immigration reform and coming up with a viable system for granting visas to workers from Central and South America who want to come up and do work that I readily admit I don't want to do (I'd last about 30 minutes working in a field). But I don't have any problem at all with denying US citizenship to the child of a tourist. I spent 5 years working in Europe helping people get RID of what we called "accidental US citizenship". Most of the world can't believe that all it takes is being born in a country to get citizenship, and I agree with them. It should take more.

    August 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  16. Linda Sante

    I'm afaid the reality is that we can no longer support illegal mother's coming into this country to give birth to their children to make them US citizens. This unfornuately does not conform with the reality of the circumstances were in finacially.

    August 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  17. MR

    Birth tourism is very common, and not only among the lower classes. While I worked for Procter & Gamble in Latin America two collegues (university graduates, middle class) travelled to the US to give birth there so that their children could have US passports.
    When asked if they were nervous about being stopped at immigration, they nonchalently replied that if asked they'd say they were just fat... and it worked for both of them.

    August 10, 2010 at 4:58 pm |