Chinese birth tourism business unaffected by Trump’s campaign rhetoric

By Ma Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/29 17:13:39

Dropping anchor

The birth of Chinese babies who have US citizenship, known as anchor babies, has given rise to an entire "birth tourism" industry. An estimated 50,000 pregnant Chinese women traveled to the US specifically to give birth there in 2015. During his campaign, US president-elect Donald Trump criticized the phenomenon of foreigners giving birth in the US to claim American citizenship. He vowed to deal with this issue. However, birth tourism firms said Trump's rhetoric hasn't affected their business and probably won't affect even after he takes the office in 2017.

A passerby in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, reads an advertisement for a company that helps women travel to the US to give birth. File photo: IC

A passerby in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, reads an advertisement for a company that helps women travel to the US to give birth. File photo: IC

The campaign rhetoric of US president-elect Donald Trump has had almost no influence over the trend of Chinese citizens flying to the US to give birth, an agent in China's birth tourism industry said on Sunday.

So far this year, about 50 pregnant Chinese women have come to the agent's care center in Los Angeles each month, said the agent, who only gave her surname Yang.

Yang works for AbcBabyVip, which helps pregnant Chinese women to deliver their babies - known as "anchor babies" - in the US.

"It's true that some clients have worried that Donald Trump will eliminate the anchor baby policy," Yang said. "But there is no need to worry because the priorities for the new US president will be improving the domestic economy and employment. Therefore, he will not deal with Chinese delivering babies in the US immediately after his inauguration."

Her views were echoed by a senior advisor, who also only gave her ­surname Liu. Liu works at the ­Shanghai office of America LV MEI International Inc, a birth tourism company based in Los Angeles, the US.

Liu told the Global Times on Sunday that many Chinese, especially from Beijing and Shanghai, still go to the US to have their babies.

"One client from the mainland has entered our center in Irvine [in the greater Los Angeles area]," Liu said. "Two mainland clients will have their visa application interviews at the US Embassy in Beijing this week."

Guaranteed citizenship

The 14th Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees that anyone born on US soil receives US citizenship.

About one of every 12 newborn babies in the US each year is an anchor baby, a US-born child of an undocumented immigrant, Forbes reported in October, citing research of US nonpartisan Pew Research Center. About 295,000 children were born to illegal aliens in 2013, according to the research.

President-elect Donald Trump, however, has said that he doesn't believe children born to illegal aliens in the US are American citizens.

"I don't think they have American citizenship and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers - and I know some will disagree, but many of them agree with me - and you're going to find they do not have American citizenship," Trump told the US-based Fox News in August 2015. "We have to start a process where we take back our country."

Between 2009 and 2013, the current US administration has deported about 500,000 illegal aliens with children with US citizenship, US magazine The Atlantic reported in September 2015.

Californian authorities spot-checked dozens of maternity centers for Chinese mainland women in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino in March 2015, but couldn't strike at the business in China, US newspaper USA Today reported in April 2015.

"I don't have much of an opinion on maternity centers and Chinese babies being born on the West Coast because it actually doesn't affect me that much," said Parker Brown, a 29-year-old American from New York.

"I don't think America would do well to create an open border. Too many people would flood here, and it will ruin what makes America ­America," Brown told the Global Times on Monday from New York via Facebook.

Brown believed a country should decide where to draw the line between preserving a way of life and having compassion for foreigners who want to live in the US.

Booming 'birth tourism'

In recent years, there has been a boom in the "birth tourism" industry in China.

There is no official record of the number of Chinese who go to the US each year to deliver their babies. Media reports said that 600 Chinese citizens went to the US to deliver babies in 2007. The figure rose to 30,000 in 2014 and around 50,000 in 2015.

Yang from AbcBabyVip said most maternity centers for undocumented immigrants are in Los Angeles.

According to four US birth tourism companies interviewed by the Global Times, services include assistance with visa applications, three-month accommodation in maternity centers, baby-sitting and help with applying for a US passport for their children.

The cost of a trip to the US, including medical expenses, ranges from 100,000 yuan ($14,480) to 350,000 yuan, plus $40 a day for anyone accompanying the mother-to-be.

A 30-year-old Beijing resident, who is seven months pregnant, went to Los Angeles in November through America LV MEI International.

The woman told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that she is determined to have her baby in the US and will not give up regardless of who the new president is. She said she started making preparations one year ago, including spending more than 80,000 yuan on two years of Chinese high-end health insurance.

An insurance broker at Beijing-based Datong Insurance Sales Service Co, who only gave her English name Anne, told the Global Times on Monday that her company recommends clients buy high-end medical insurance five months before the start of the pregnancy.

Clients should buy insurance for two years because there is a waiting period of 10 to 12 months, which means the insurance will only take effect 10 to 12 months after purchase, Anne said.

A mother from Shijiazhuang, capital of North China's Hebei Province, who went to Los Angeles to deliver twins last week, said she also bought high-end health insurance. "This insurance can be helpful for the application of a visa because a B-2 visa allows foreigners to come to the US for medical treatment," she said, declining to be identified.

Despite the high fees, these families still choose to deliver babies in the US, mainly for their children's future education. When anchor babies turn 21, their parents have the ability to become legal US residents, according to the American Immigration Council.

"Our goal is to get a better education for our children," the Shijiazhuang mother said.

"Children with US citizenship receive 13 years of compulsory education and have a better chance than international students to be admitted by top US universities," said an immigration consultant named Pan Rong in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province.

In addition, "this is a shortcut to US residency, compared with an immigration program that requires an investment of at least $500,000 in a US business," Pan told the Global Times on Sunday.

Chen Qingqing contributed to this story.



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