Sen. Vitter Introduces Bill to 'Prevent the Practice of Birthright Tourism'

By Susan Jones | March 12, 2015 | 11:02am EDT

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) (AP File Photo)

( - Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is trying once again to advance legislation that would confer American citizenship on babies born in the United States only if those children are born to U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens.

Vitter said the amendment, attached to the Victims of Trafficing Act, would "prevent the practice of birthright tourism," where foreigners come to the U.S. for the express purpose of securing American citizenship for their babies.

“It’s astounding that we’re allowing foreign citizens to exploit the loopholes of our immigration system in this manner, and Congress has the obligation to stop it,” Vitter said. “This practice comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of the 14th Amendment, and we can stop the massive problem with some simple clarification.”

The 14th Amendment states that citizenship extends to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

Vitter's legislation would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to prevent children born in the U.S. of foreign national parents from gaining automatic U.S. citizenship unless one of the parents is: (1) a U.S. citizen or national, (2) a lawful permanent resident, or (3) an alien performing active service in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Vitter first introduced his bill in 2011. He brought it up again on March 10, one week after federal agents raided dozens of "maternity hotels" in Southern California, where wealthy women (mostly Chinese nationals) come to the U.S. on tourist visas so their babies can be born here.

According to the New York Times, "affidavits quote Chinese government sources as reporting that Chinese nationals had 10,000 babies in the United States in 2012, up from 4,200 in 2008."

The March 3 raids were the largest to date, the newspaper reported, and were more of an attempt to crack down on businesses promoting maternity tourism than on the women themselves.

Vitter's bill prompted an angry response from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum:

“This is clearly an attack on immigrant women and families,” said Miriam Yeung, the group's executive director. "Redefining citizenship in this way is an affront to the Constitution and to the American principle of equality.”

Yeung accused Vitter of "fear-mongering about birth tourism," just to support an anti-immigrant agenda.

"The claim that immigrant women are giving birth in the U.S. to receive the benefits of citizenship is insulting and inaccurate," she said -- despite reports of the recent Southern California raid.

"Children cannot sponsor their parents (for U.S. citizenship) until they turn 21. Having children in the U.S. in order to wait a whole 21 years for benefits, during which one could be subject to deportation and unable to receive any federal benefits, is far-fetched.”

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