DHS Issues Dark, Mixed Message to Pregnant Foreign Visitors

By David North on September 1, 2010

An arm of the Department of Homeland Security is apparently paying some subdued, indirect attention to the 14th Amendment controversy – should "anchor babies" be allowed, as they are now, to become citizens at birth?

It has issued a somber message to pregnant alien women thinking about coming to this country. (For more on the birthright citizenship controversy see the new Backgrounder by my colleague Jon Feere.)

The agency that handles inspections of people arriving in the United States, Customs and Border Protection, quietly updated its advice to pregnant aliens arriving in the U.S. in May, in a document mentioned in the August 31 edition of Immigration Daily.

CBP's message to prospective alien mothers is a fairly dark one, starting, as it does, with the specter of risks to the pregnant woman and her baby. Although it assures her that the radiation detection systems used at land ports will not harm her or her prospective child, it says that if the inspector determines that she might have the baby at taxpayers' expense, she might be barred from entering the country.

It also says: "Coming to the U.S. for the purpose of child birth is not a valid reason for travel."

Two comments: 1) if neither Immigration Daily nor the Center for Immigration Studies was aware of this CBP notice, until this week, how many potential alien visitor mothers know about it? Wouldn't it be helpful if CBP issued a press release, in various languages, sent particularly to radio stations, letting all pregnant women know about these policies? I doubt that will happen.

2) The message itself, presumably cleared by a batch of lawyers, is a wonderfully complex, brooding document, and, if transmitted broadly, might discourage some birth tourists. Raising the issue of invisible rays reaching your body, even if it is to say there is no problem involved, might confuse and terrify some lightly educated people. The flat statement that coming to the U.S. to have a baby is not a good reason for crossing the border is useful, particularly when tied to the prospect of the denial of entry on public charge grounds.

The full text of the CBP statement follows:

Can I visit the U.S. while pregnant and what are the risks involved?

Although there are no specific regulations prohibiting pregnant foreign nationals from entering the U.S., entry is allowed or denied at the discretion of the admitting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer. If the CBP Officer determines that you are likely to become a ward of the government (meaning that the government must provide medical care because you do not have medical coverage while visiting the U.S.), you can be denied entry. When determining if you will be allowed to enter the U.S., CBP Officers take into consideration the date your child is due for delivery and the length of time you intend to stay in the U.S. In addition, they want evidence that you have sufficient medical insurance to cover any medical necessities while you are in the U.S. If it is determined that you do not have sufficient medical insurance to cover any unexpected or expected medical care while in the U.S., you can be denied entry. Additionally, if you are pregnant and entering the U.S. at a border port of entry via vehicle, be aware the radiation detection portals deployed at the ports do not emit any radiation, and do not present a hazard to you and your unborn child. Coming to the U.S. for the purpose of child birth is not a valid reason for travel.

It would also be useful if this message, in English and translated into the language of the host country, could be posted prominently in every American consulate, all over the world.