In the quest of attaining the American Dream, millions of people migrate to the United States. Many of these individuals enter the country legally while many others cross the borders without the necessary permissions. Regardless of the method of entry, many individuals would do almost anything for the opportunity to remain in America, including the increasingly controversial method of giving birth to a child on American soil in what is known as having an ‘anchor baby.’

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Primarily applied to the children born to Latino parents and considered offensive by many, the term “anchor baby” emerges from the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants birthright citizenship to those born on American soil (Parvini). President-elect Donald Trump has addressed this issue in his immigration policy while claiming this tactic is the “biggest magnet” for illegal immigration and postulates that once these children are born, the American public assumes the financial responsibilities associated with raising children (Parvini). While the term is applied primarily to children of Latino descent, a trend has emerged throughout the years in which pregnant women from foreign countries enter the United States, primarily with tourist visas, with the objective of giving birth on American soil in a practice known as ‘maternity tourism’ (Parvini).

While birth tourism is considered to be a questionable, if not illegal, method of obtaining permanent residency in the United States, it has become a major business endeavor in other countries, such as Turkey. In 2010, Turkish parents who pursued this alternative paid a minimum of $25,000 with choice locations, such as New York City, demanding premium prices of up to $40,000 through tourism companies that offer this option (Egrikavuk). Similarly, many Asian parents pursue this option through locations in Southern California that operate as ‘birthing centers’ and ‘maternal hotels’ (Grad). Birthing centers are often located in residential neighborhoods, leading to complaints from neighbors while subsequent investigations from Immigration and Customs Enforcement searched for evidence to support allegations of immigration fraud, visa fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and tax evasion (Grad).

Pregnant women who travel to the United States on tourist visas with the intention of giving birth are often provided with specific instructions to wear loose clothing and to travel during early pregnancy, entering America through popular tourism venues instead of through major cities, such as Los Angeles, to avoid raising suspicions (Grad). An estimated 40,000 of the approximately 300,000 babies born in the U.S. have mothers who are in the country with tourism visas (Grad). Questions concerning the legitimacy of this practice as it applies to attaining citizenship have led to calls for immigration policy reformation among immigration opponents. However, for many parents who pursue this option, obtaining U.S. citizenship provides certain benefits for their child, including fewer concerns with visa issues and the ability to obtain educations at lower costs while opponents of this practice state that the benefits provided to these children via food stamps and other social programs are paid for by American taxpayers (Egrikavuk).

The Fourteenth Amendment ensures that all persons born on American soil has equal rights and was implemented following the Civil War to provide newly-freed slaves and was eventually expanded to include the members of aboriginal tribes (“Anchor babies”). Many argue that the birthright stipulation contained within the Fourteenth Amendment extends citizenship to the offspring of illegal immigrants while opponents argue that the fact of being in the country illegally nullifies the Amendment; however, the Supreme Court has not issued a ruling in this issue (“Misinterpretation”). It is further argued that the language that was applied while drafting the Fourteenth Amendment does not provide citizenship to children born to immigrants regardless of their immigration status through the phrase ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof…’ (Madison). Dissent focuses on the manner in which ‘jurisdiction’ is applied as Senator Howard, as the author of the citizenship clause in 1866, stated it does not apply to individuals “born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, …families of ambassadors or foreign ministers” while encompassing “every other class of persons” (Madison).

The American Dream has served as the objective for many individuals in the pursuit of happiness. It indicates that anyone can succeed in the right environment and is the reward for hard work. However, many try to take advantage of the American way by trying to bypass the rules and regulations that are in place to ensure the safety and security of the general populace.

The practice of birth tourism appears to have a level of illegitimacy as it advises the mothers-to-be how to enter the country legally while concealing pertinent information. In many instances, the bills accrued during pregnancy and delivery remain unpaid by the patients and appears to place an undue burden on hospitals in areas where the birthing centers and maternity hotels are located as well as the additional burden placed on American taxpayers associated with programs designed to assist citizens with raising their children. However, experts indicate that according to the Constitution, other conditions, specifically the citizenship status of the parent, must be met before anchor babies can be considered as citizens of the U.S.