In a new rule announced publicly on Thursday, the State Department claimed that “birth tourism”—a word they use to describe pregnant women crossing the border and subsequently giving birth in the U.S.—was a “risk to national security” and “rife with criminal activity, including international criminal schemes.” It specified that it was also not “a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature.”
Consular officials now have the authority, effective today, to deny a visitor visa if they have reason to believe the applicant intends to travel to the U.S. for the “primary purpose” of giving birth.
The new rule will make it harder for pregnant women to obtain tourist visas, creating yet another hurdle for some of the most vulnerable women seeking to legally enter the U.S. along the border. In addition to complying with standard immigration regulations, they must now also convince a consular officer that they have a more legitimate reason to enter the U.S.
Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition, explained to Vox that the impact for young women in particular would be devastating. “Young women already have a difficult time securing visas for travel,” she said. “These guidelines will make it harder for women, particularly young women, to travel to the United States for any purpose.”
This latest policy is a continuation of the president’s long-standing war on immigrant women’s rights. Just last year, the Trump Administration enacted the Migrant Protected Protocols (MPP), which forces people who seek asylum in the U.S. to return to Mexico to wait for their cases to continue in the U.S. immigrations courts—a policy that endangers children and pregnant women. In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that women fleeing to the U.S. because of domestic violence no longer qualified them for asylum, and the Trump administration then enacted a “zero tolerance” policy that forced parents to be separated from their children, no matter what age, once they had arrived in the U.S.