Bonnie Erbé, journalist and host of the PBS news program To The Contrary, now in its 23rd season, spoke to members of the Channel City Club on Monday about her views on birth tourism, the term used for foreign nationals who come to the United States with the intention of giving birth on American soil to grant their children U.S. citizenship under terms of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Birth tourism came to the public’s attention in the early 2000s with reports of women from elite and wealthy circles in Southeast Asian countries such as China, Taiwan and Korea paying approximately $100,000 to come to the United States on tourist visas looking to secure U.S. citizenship for themselves and their unborn children.
Today, Erbé said, the list of countries is expanding to Eastern Europe and Turkey. About 90 percent of birth tourists come to Southern California, and the other 10 percent most commonly go to New York, she added.
These pregnant women supposedly come because they believe their children will have access to healthier food and a less expensive and higher quality education in the United States. Erbé claimed that they enter the United States before their pregnancies are showing and upon arrival move into Birth Hotels, often in violation of local zoning laws. There they are supplied with the essentials to carry out a healthy pregnancy.
Erbé said that when birth tourists fill out requests for visas, they must lie and deny that they are pregnant in order to obtain approval of the visa application. She believes that this deceptive practice will have negative environmental impacts caused by an increase in population. She pointed to rapidly developing climate change, which scientists believe may be causing an increasing number of climate-related natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. Erbe’s To The Contrary discusses women’s issues and family matters along with politics. She made the point in her Channel City Club presentation that “there won’t be women’s issues if we don’t have a planet.”
According to a report by ABC News citing 2006 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, of the 4,273,225 live births in the United States that year, 7,670 were children born to mothers who responded that they did not live in the country. The CDC does not track the reasons that non-resident mothers are in the United States and does not differentiate between so-called birth tourists and others who happened to give birth while here. This number likely includes foreigners on vacation and students enrolled in U.S. schools and colleges.
Erbé argued that the issue of U.S. population growth needs to be addressed. She urged Americans to support development in foreign countries, which according to her will allow people to lead fulfilling lives with jobs, food and education without feeling the need to emigrate to the United States.
— Rufus O’Dea and Elena Alcerro are students at Anacapa School.