Most people who are familiar with the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution know it as the amendment that finally granted citizenship to former slaves (who were freed by the 13th Amendment in 1864).
But this interpretation of the amendment is a bit oversimplified. In actuality, the 14th Amendment grants citizenship to, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.”
At the time, the vast majority of people who fell into this group were recently freed slaves. But today, a different group is taking advantage of the 14th Amendment: Chinese mothers. According to CNN Money,
“Pregnant Chinese moms are flocking stateside to give birth, lured by rules that grant American citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. A booming birth tourism industry has sprouted from coast to coast to cater to growing interest — in 2012, about 10,000 Chinese women gave birth in the U.S., more than double the 4,200 in 2008, according to Chinese state media.”
There are a number of reasons that expectant mothers make the journey to the United States. For one, having a child with American citizenship makes it much easier for a family to leave China if they feel the need to.
With President Xi Jinping’s recent corruption crackdown targeting wealthy Chinese trying to move money abroad, the ability to leave the country quickly is becoming more and more important to rich families in China.
“If things become economically or politically uncertain in one’s country of origin, the children have a place to come to,”
says Leti Volpp, who teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Analysis carried out last year by the research firm Hurun found that nearly two-thirds of Chinese with over 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) in the bank have emigrated out of the country or are planning to do so in the near future.
Education is also a big motivator for Chinese mothers who choose to give birth in the United States. Not only does a foreign passport gain a child access to the most prestigious international schools in the country, but it also gives them the option to study abroad during high school and college.
Over the past few years, the practice of birth tourism has become so popular that a number of agencies have sprouted up to accommodate the growing demand. According to CNN Money, these agencies are complete with…
“…websites and ads touting elaborate birth packages at “maternity hotels” that include luxury accommodation, meals, chauffeurs, doctor appointments and more. The websites even explain how to secure a passport for a newborn and where to apply for a visa.”
All of these accommodations can get expensive. Miao Yu, a Chinese hairstylist who enlisted one of these agencies to help her have her second child in the U.S., estimated that she spent around $30,000 in total for the trip.
But apparently the potential benefits of U.S. citizenship outweigh the costs involved, judging by the growing popularity of birth tourism – for Chinese mothers looking to improve their baby’s future prospects, the investment seems to be well worth it.