Trump administration targeting 'birth tourism' mothers

Nearly nine months after the I-Team uncovered pregnant foreign women coming to Chicago to have American "citizen children," the Trump administration is about to crack down on so-called "birth tourism," a State Department official has confirmed to ABC News.

"This change is intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry," the official said in a statement.

The administration is said to be planning- perhaps this week- the unveiling of a new rule aimed at stopping the practice of pregnant women traveling to the U.S. to deliver.

The 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution essentially says you become a U.S. citizen if you are born on American soil, but administration officials say such a change can be made by Executive Order and wouldn't require a constitutional amendment.

Local gynecologists told the I-Team last May that they had patients who came to Chicago from other countries and paid out of pocket to deliver their babies in the U.S.

A federal government report at the time showed the U.S. birth rate is at a 32-year-low. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization known for favoring low immigration, there are tens of thousands of people who list a foreign address on their child's birth certificate.

The group estimated there are anywhere between 35,000 to hundreds of thousands of birth tourism babies born every year in the United States.

The U.S. is one of only 35 countries in the world that recognizes birthright citizenship.

We discovered foreign websites advertising packages charging up to $150,000 that included medical costs, high-end accommodations and help with paperwork to obtain U.S. passports for the newborns. Those companies touted U.S. citizenship as something that would provide easier access to U.S. universities and also promised that American-born children could sponsor their parents' immigration to the United States once they turned 21-years-old.

The expected order by President Trump cracking down on birthright children has been one of his priorities. Just before the mid-term elections, the president said he wanted to issue such an executive order ending the practice.

There is no data on how prevalent birth tourism is here. All of the major hospitals in metro Chicago either denied or ignored the I-Team's requests for interviews during our reporting last year.

Former Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan has called birthright citizenship a key "driver" of illegal immigration, suggesting it was behind the surge of asylum applicants who arrived at the southern border in 2019.

"They think it's their golden ticket to come to the United States," said Homan.

However, ABC News contributor John Cohen, who served as a senior Homeland Security official under President Obama, said birthright schemes are rare and should not be considered a high priority national security threat.

In one criminal case reported by the I-Team last year, federal prosecutors indicted 19 people on allegations that they charged clients thousands of dollars with the promise of getting them to the United States for the purposes of giving birth. The defendants were charged with defrauding their victims and laundering money following a Homeland Security Department investigation.
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