In Defense of Asian Birth Tourism

Why Jeb Bush should pledge to roll out the welcome mat for them


Jeb Bush used to be the Mr. Rogers of GOP presidential candidates—a gentle fellow who would put you to sleep a

Jeb Bush
Creative Commons

few minutes after coming on TV. Now Bush is the GOP's Bambi—a frozen deer who doesn't know which way to turn as the headline-beaming monster truck that is Donald Trump bears down upon him.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Bush's recent cringe-inducing suggestion that the real abusers of America's birthright citizenship are Asian birth tourists—not Latino "anchor babies," as Trump claims.

But as the GOP's token pro-immigration candidate, if Bush had half of Trump's cojones, he wouldn't throw Asians under the bus to save Latinos. He'd tell Trump that "anchor babies" are a problem more hyped up than Trump's bouffant—and birth tourism is a blessing that America should wholeheartedly welcome.

"Anchor babies" are a myth invented by restrictionists to try and scrap America's constitutionally guaranteed right to birthright citizenship. The term used to refer to pregnant Latino women who supposedly deliberately and illegally came to America to give birth to American children who would become mom and dad's green card sponsors. But this scheme can involve wait times of up to 31 years (kids can't sponsor before age 21, and parents sometimes have to wait 10 years outside America before qualifying). Hence, restrictionists couldn't find many examples to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria. So now they have dubbed every one of the 300,000 children born to undocumented parents annually as anchor babies whose real purpose is to prevent their unauthorized parents from being deported.

This argument is ridiculous. Vanishingly few undocumented immigrants have children specifically to escape deportation. They have children because they want to—for any number of non-cynical reasons. And yes, this can sometimes help them escape deportation. But don't conflate that consequence of birth with the motives for pregnancy.

Anchor babies don't exist in any meaningful sense. Birth tourism, however, does. And that's a good thing.

No super-reliable figures are available, but the number commonly bandied about puts birth tourist babies at a mere 35,000 annually. Unlike the poor, unauthorized Latino parents of mythical "anchor babies," birth tourism involves relatively well-off couples, the vast majority from China, who come to America when it comes time to give birth so their kid will score U.S. citizenship.

Another benefit for these Chinese couples: Beijing's autocrats don't count children born with other nationalities against a couple's one-child quota. No doubt, a U.S. passport for their newborn is a huge attraction. But America is not the only destination for couples trying to dodge China's draconian birth control policies. Mainland Chinese couples also flock to Hong Kong (all of which the pro-life, pro-family conservative editors of National Review Online should understand and applaud rather than running confused pieces like this conflating "anchor babies" and birth tourists to promote their anti-birthright citizenship crusade).

Immigration restrictionists love to deride "anchor baby" parents for being in the United States illegally. But that's not true with birth tourists. They come here legally. Even a recent Rolling Stone "expose" of Los Angeles-based maternity agencies acknowledged: "Birth tourists, arriving on legal visas, aren't breaking any laws while in the country." Meanwhile, a May Bloomberg Businessweek story about these agencies—that for a fee of up to $50,000 help a couple obtain U.S. visas, put them up in hotels during their long stay in America, arrange doctors and hospitals and then passports for their infant—found that most of them go out of their way to coach their clients in "cheng shi qian" (honest visa applications). This is not to say that no one lies, but it is far from standard practice—which is why a Department of Homeland Security raid on maternity hotels earlier this year didn't seem to come up with many instances of visa fraud, despite a long undercover investigation.

Restrictionists constantly accuse "anchor baby" parents of mooching off American taxpayers by using emergency services for child delivery and collecting welfare through their American child. (Never mind that unauthorized parent-headed households receive far less welfare than native ones of similar income, and are far less prone to welfare dependency.) But none of that applies to birth tourists, who, with few exceptions, pay for the entire cost of delivery out of pocket. In fact, the agency that formed the cornerstone of the Bloomberg story went out of its way to ensure that its clients don't use public money, and keep copious documentation to prove that.

More to the point, birth tourist babies go home to be raised during their most expensive phase—only to possibly return to America after their 18th birthday, during their most productive phase. In effect, birth tourism allows America to outsource the raising of its citizens, resulting in enormous savings, given that it costs a whopping $300,000 to raise a child in a middle-income family in America today.

Every adult immigrant, even poor Latinos, constitute a windfall for America, given that America reaps the dividends of another society's investment in them. (Indeed, immigration is arguably a far cheaper way than having children for a society to maintain its population level.) But birth tourist babies are a special boon because they are the product of super-ambitious parents who are obviously sparing no expense or effort to build their child's full potential and give him/her options.

This is why it is all the more unfortunate that Jeb Bush put birth tourists in the crosshairs of his party's ugly war on immigration. He has said in the past that Latinos who come to America illegally to give their children a better life are engaging in an "act of love." This is equally true for Asian birth tourists.

Bush should have used their example to defend and strengthen America's birthright citizenship against Trump's attacks. Instead, in his panic about his nose-diving poll numbers, he may have done the opposite—all of which inspires less confidence than the last President Bush who at least stuck to his guns.

This column was originally published in The Week.

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  1. Woo-hoo, good article!!!

    1. This article should be required reading for The Donaldolf Hitrumpler… AND someone should require him to write up an article summary and report! But… WHO can dictate to such a would-be dictator?

      1. Shikha Dhalmis, please don’t post comments t your own articles using fake names. It’s obvious and sad.

  2. This is such an egregiously dishonest article. The idea that Anchor babies aren’t an enormous influence on long-term Latin-American immigration is ridiculous. Since our system hardly deports anyone anyway, and because crying toddlers being torn apart from their loving, hard-working “undocumented” mothers and fathers is such great propaganda fodder, the reason there aren’t any good statistics on it is precisely because it’s so successful.

    1. Dishonesty is what Dalmia does best. Fortunately, she’s too stupid and prone to frothing histrionics to be very effective with it. The choir she preaches to does seem to love it though.

    2. It doesn’t matter which side of the debate one takes, this article is too strident and one-sided. Lots of loaded words -“restrictionists”! “myths”! “to try and scrap [sic] America’s constitutionally guaranteed right to birthright citizenship”! Nearly all of her articles are written this way, and it gets tiresome.

      Aside from that, it’s not very well written. I was going to detail the lazy grammar and word usage, but what’s the point? Either Reason doesn’t edit or doesn’t care.

  3. Never mind that unauthorized parent-headed households receive far less welfare than native ones of similar income, and are far less prone to welfare dependency.

    This is why you consistently hear anti-immigrant blubberheads advocate first for mandatory birth control for natives, especially their own fecund relations.

    1. Native households are entitled to whatever welfare legally exist and those whose backs are still wet deserve none.

      As a country we should endeavor that no one is incentivised to come here for welfare and then vote like The Tony Troll.

      Tony how old were you when your father abandoned you ?

    2. “Blubberheads”? Another astute observation from Tony. Yet the Left’s precious Planned Parenthood was founded on the principle of birth control for minorities to keep their numbers down. Are they blubberheads too?

      1. The original blubberheads are the cetaceans… The whales, dolphins, and porpoises of our 77 seas… Those unspeakable bahstahds pay NO attention at ALL, none whatsoever, to our internationally honored “borders” at sea… 200 mile limits, 12-mile limits, fishing-rights limits, mineral limits, just NONE, those arrogant bahstahds… They just swim and frolic right on, arrogantly IGNORING our boundaries! How COULD they?!?!? Let’s fry them right up, shall we? Whaddaya say?!?!?

        “NUKE the whales”, ah sez!!! If’n ye aren’t WIFF me, ye muss be AGIN’ me, Ah sez!!!!

  4. Amending the Constitution isn’t necessary to prevent most anchor babies and all tourist anchor babies.

    Just don’t give visas to pregnant women.

    1. I think the concern is the woman whose water breaks as she is crawling under the border fence on the way to the welfare office.

    2. The LA Times (yes, the LA Times) has had a series about the Chinese birth tourist hotels in East LA. The sponsor groups advise their customers how to lie to immigration authorities about their condition (I’m not pregnant and you can’t prove it!), also the reason for their visit, intended length of stay, who they will be staying with, etc. Immigration doesn’t have the resources to follow up on any of this.

      1. We once gave immigrants health ckecks at ellis island.

        We could do it again if there was the will.

        1. And no interference from progressives and open borders kooks.

    3. Amending the Constitution isn’t necessary to prevent most anchor babies and all tourist anchor babies.

      All it takes is a literate reading of the 14th Amendment as written.

  5. Why should they have to come to get the benefits of American citizenship? Simple Social Justice requires that every person in the world receive the benefits of American citizenship. We should hire army of a million bureaucrats and send them to ever corner of the world and sign everyone up for American citizenship, and along with them, we should send another army of bureaucrats to sign up all these new citizens for welfare, most of them should qualify. All we greedy, selfish American taxpayers can afford to pay for this, can’t we?

    1. See, now you’re on to something here. Making people come here just to receive the benefits of American citizenship is racist and ableist and classist and ageist and all kinds of other evil things. I mean, not everyone is capable of physically traveling here for various reasons. Why are we discriminating against them?

      American citizenship should be something that anyone can just spontaneously declare. Maybe we can make a website where you just enter your name and check a box that says YES. No ID required of course, because ID is racist too. Then we’ll just send out the welfare checks, unemployment benefits, and — most importantly — absentee ballots. Sounds like the only socially responsible thing to do. A moral imperative, really.

      1. It would be an act of love.

  6. Sure, women have lots of motives for getting pregnant. Yes, illegal immigrants who give birth here may not be doing it primarily to establish an ‘anchor baby.’ But that is the result, whether it was the original motive or not.

    Why is it a good thing to have all babies born to non-citizens on U.S. soil automatically receive citizenship? How exactly do the current citizens of the U.S. benefit from this?

    How many other developed nations in the world award citizenship in this way? Why or why not?

    1. “Why is it a good thing to have all babies born to non-citizens on U.S. soil automatically receive citizenship? How exactly do the current citizens of the U.S. benefit from this?”

      Didn’t you read one of Shika’s most laugh-inducing lines?
      “Every adult immigrant, even poor Latinos, constitute a windfall for America, given that America reaps the dividends of another society’s investment in them.”

      Yeah, there’s some “dividends”, there.

      Spoken like someone who should have stayed in her other society.

      1. Yeah, I had to laugh at the word “investment” which I understand to mean something is be gained or achieved by investing money, time, etc. Subsidizing millions of “undocumented” mothers and their babies will never result in a net profit or gain if they can’t become citizens until 30 years from the kid’s birth, if they ever do. Most only take from the system and not give back in the form of taxes or other contributions to society.

  7. “Anchor babies” are a myth invented by restrictionists to try and scrap America’s constitutionally guaranteed right to birthright citizenship.”

    I stopped reading right here. Anyone who would write such flagrantly absurd drivel clearly isn’t worth further consideration.

    1. Guess you haven’t seen any of the other drivel she is renowned for.

  8. Okay, some Libertarians, and this author in particular, believe that ANYONE can drops a kid on US soil and that kids is automatically a U.S. citizen.

    Mark Levin explained quite clearly that the 14th amendment was written for the children of slaves and excludes the children of “aliens, ambassadors”, and more.

    Why didn’t any libertarians debate Mark on this issue? I want to know the truth.

  9. Outside of the immediate border, hardly anyone gets deported. Whether the motivation for undocumented women to get pregnant is SOLELY to produce anchor babies (Shihka is probably right that these cases aren’t common) or not is a moot point, because any way you look it, it’s part of their long term plan to stay here and inch closer to legal status. What matters is incentive. If the feds deported illegal families the day after the baby was born (cruel as it is) there would less illegals here.

    Of course the wealthy Asian birth tourists have to pay their own way. They’re not citizens, and the government would send them back if their intentions are known. Is Shikha encouraging women to give birth in non medical facilities (hotels, etc), working with doctors who operate under the law? How many doctors would advise pregnant patients to “go to a foreign nation and give birth at a unspecified location, working with doctors you’ve never met?”

    I would like to see some stats that show that most birth tourist babies return to their nation and return here when they’re 18. I mean, what’s the point of coming here in the first place? And if all the Latino anchor babies went back to Mexico for 18-20 years (with their parents) then that would also be a good thing? Less immigrants for 18 years is good for America?

    1. One of the points in coming here to give birth to a tourist anchor baby would be the easier admission, and at a cheaper price, to a U.C. college, using resident tuition rates.
      There’s a reason that it happens mostly in California, and it ain’t because it is closer to China.
      The “UC” system is respected, worldwide.

      1. But UCs are increasingly admitting more international students, precisely because they can charge them more.

        America does have some good public / private schools. If you have money, you can send your kids there. The education system in Asia is ultra demanding on young kids and rife with corruption. If you want a good education for your kids, you want them to grow up here. If nothing else, they’ll learn English at an early age.

        Most of Asia is a crap place to live, and it’s crawling with mean people. I really doubt most birth tourists would return so soon after giving birth and then WAIT 18 years to come back.

  10. Way to repost an article that was already posted last week. Your arguments still suck even when you repeat them verbatim. I hope that didn’t hurt your little feelings, Dalmia.

    1. Is that what Reason did here? They’re the only publication I’ve seen do that, just redate and republish, without clarifying that’s what they’re doing. It seems a bit pathetic to me.

  11. “More to the point, birth tourist babies go home to be raised during their most expensive phase?only to possibly return to America after their 18th birthday, during their most productive phase.”

    1) The college years are very expensive and not very productive.

    2) If we don’t give the child US citizenship, then the exact same process can occur, but with the US having the right to deny the child entry to the US if they are not a college graduate or not holding needed skills. Withholding citizenship puts the US in the drivers seat, not the other way around.

    3) Why would we want a country filled with people who have been raised to despise the US? I have worked with Chinese nationals. They love China and look down on the US. Many are children of the ruling class and think central planing for the “masses” is wonderful. A libertarian should be wary of people with these ideas.

    4) Why should the US give the right to vote to people who do not have the same ideals as the US? People that think the government should select your family size are not someone I want to give the right to vote in the US.

    It is foolish to give up control over who enters your borders. It is foolish to give your voting rights to people who do not share your values.

  12. Dalmia seems to assume that a Mexican woman would sneak across the border, have an anchor baby, leave, and wait 21 years to use the kid to bootstrap the family into American citizenship. I’m betting a much more common practice is for illegal immigrants to have an anchor baby, sit tight hoping la migra doesn’t notice them, then apply for citizenship when the kid turns 21.

    It’s not like the government pays any attention to border jumpers now, even those who commit serial felonies. If you settle in a “sanctuary city”, you’re extremely unlikely to be tossed out. If things go pear-shaped and you are shoveled back across the border, wait out the rest of the 21 years and take the kid and his birth certificate to the nearest US consul.

  13. Based on this and other articles I’ve read by Dalmia, my impression is that she has never given a reason for ANYONE to not be allowed to immigrate. Between the drain on the taxpayers and the influx of low skill workers, that just doesn’t make sense to me. Back in the ’50s and ’60s we had lots of highly educated people immigrating (the “brain drain”). But, what about the bulk of our immigrants now? Businessmen? Doctors Scientists? I don’t think so. Yet they somehow are enriching our society or so we’re told. Again, I don’t think so.

  14. I think we might have a skewed view of Asians because the legal immigrants were of the high cultural values that were passed on to their kids, even in spite of living here with us! The ones who could afford to come here for this purpose, now, would still not be the type of people living in rural Asia (including India). They would, still, be better than most other nationalities moving here. Look at governor Jindall of Louisiana! His role models were hard working parents, who valued education. He is American as the rest of us! He, also, believes in assimilation, not the segregation that the Muslims seem to be adopting in Dearborne, MI and other US cities!

  15. JEB was scapegoating Asian Tourist anchor babies so that he could bolster his anti-illegal-immigration bona fides but not piss off his wife, who is the driving force behind his embrace of the “act of love” of invading our sovereign territory.

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  17. “Anchor babies” are a myth invented by restrictionists to try and scrap America’s constitutionally guaranteed right to birthright citizenship….”

    Typical liberal lies. You misrepresent the opposing argument and viewpoint in order to make your false allegations true.

    “Anchor Baby” is used to describe a host of reasons why some illegal alien women choose to have their baby born in the U.S. Some of the major reasons are:
    -for free medical care;
    -better medical care;
    -citizenship for their child and a potential for a better future,
    -education – including those who come across the border every day to attend US schools, many of which are not even US Citizens;
    -US benefits,
    -protection against deportation (it may only be true for a relatively small percentage, but perception may be much larger than truth).
    -Far down the line is to be able to get their own citizenship.
    -Obama promises

  18. I certainly believe that the great majority of illegal children born here are largely as a result of parents searching for employment. But if even only 1 in 5 are here to any significant degree for benefits that is huge.

    Without any question, our forefathers did not contemplate children born of illegals obtaining welfare benefits. It’s takes no brain whatsoever to figure out if they had, the “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” clause would certainly have been clarified.

    Lastly, it doesn’t really matter how many illegal children are born here or for what reason, the fundamental issue is that there is no GOOD reason whatsoever to automatically grant US citizenship to children born of illegals. NONE!!! We receive no benefit. There are only negatives.

    Do we ever expect that when we have children in other countries? Of course not!

    Not granting automatic citizenship does not prevent us from granting citizenship later on when it may be more appropriate such as when the child turns 18 and has lived most, if not all of his or her life here and possibly much earlier. But it doesn’t have to be automatic.

    So despite your spiteful attitude, this debate is not about intolerance by the great majority of people who oppose automatic citizenship. It is about stupid government and wasting taxpayer dollars.

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