Thousands of foreign, pregnant women go to the United States each year for the sole purpose of having babies. These children become citizens on birth, and technically it’s not illegal. The phenomenon is called birth tourism, and in some parts of the country it’s a thriving business.

Expectant mothers, the largest numbers from China and Russia, typically arrive two months before their babies are due on US on tourist visas. Their visits are often coordinated through birth tourism agencies that make thousands of dollars off each woman.  Before they leave with what some have called their “anchor baby”, some mothers spend thousands of dollars in private hospitals, on medical care and in high-end shopping malls. Estimates on the numbers of women involved range from 10,000 to over 40,000, and the reasons behind it are varied. Some say it’s for higher quality maternity care, others so that their children have access to the United States later in life. At the age of 21 these children gain the right to sponsor their parents for legal residency as well.  

It’s that last reason that has many up in arms and has become a hot button issue in the 2016 US presidential campaign. Recently the states of California and Florida cracked down on the visa fraud and business owners involved, but some critics say that’s not enough and want to do away with birthright citizenship altogether. We discuss birth tourism and debate the issues surrounding it. 

In this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Shikha Dalmia @shikhadalmia
Senior Analyst, Reason Foundation

Ian Tuttle @iptuttle
Writer & Buckley Fellow, National Review Institute 

Rossana Mitchell 
Attorney & Founder, Not in Chino Hills

Richard Chang @RichardYChang
Reporter, The Sacramento Bee

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.