Whatever happens after we defeat coronavirus, one thing is certain: the world will never be the same. At least that is what many elected leaders and experts are telling us. The carefree way we gathered in crowded, public places is over. Surgical masks may be mandatory in perpetuity. Some of those predictions may not come true, but some will. In short, many of the things we liked about our world may be changing or going away.
If we are entering a time of greater sacrifice, we should also be entering a moment of greater clarity on some of our thorniest societal ills. Specifically, our laissez-faire approach to immigration needs to end immediately. In addition to its economic and security threats, it also comes with life-threatening health risks.
America’s immigration problems are akin to a virus itself, with many strains and mutations. One problem that should be quickly targeted and terminated in the post-coronavirus world is the birth tourism scam.
Most people know little about the birth tourism problem, even though it occasionally makes the news. Last year, the U.S. Attorney’s office in the central district of California arrested three people on charges including immigration fraud and money laundering. The defendants allegedly operated a sophisticated birth tourism operation that brought wealthy Chinese clients into the state for the express purpose of having a baby on American soil, thus granting the child U.S. citizenship and all the rights and benefits that come with it. The defendants allegedly coached the clients to conceal their pregnancy while traveling and to enter the U.S. via Hawaii instead of California to better avoid attention from Customs and Border Protection officers.
The birth tourism scam is much bigger than just Chinese mothers coming to California to exploit American immigration loopholes. Similar birth tourism operations have been exposed for Russians in South Florida and for residents of countries including Nigeria, Brazil, and South Korea in Texas. It may have been infuriating before, but now it is potentially life-threatening.
One reason birth tourism should be targeted is that there is ample legal precedent to defeat it. For more than a century it has been accepted as gospel that any child born here under any circumstances is automatically a U.S. citizen. A closer examination, however, reveals that the law in this area has been misinterpreted for 120 years. It turns out that in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the landmark case on the matter, the Supreme Court clearly excluded the children of illegal aliens and non-U.S. residents from constitutional birthright citizenship.
Yet, perhaps because of the never-ending push by anti-borders activists and big business, the law has been interpreted in a way that essentially surrenders American sovereignty to everyone except Americans. This cannot be allowed to continue.
There are steps President Trump can take to bring us back to sanity. One is to order his Justice Department to declare war on the birth tourism industry operating in the United States. Rip up their networks and prosecute the ringleaders to the fullest extent of the law.
More importantly, issue regulations, tracking the Wong Kim Ark decision, that make clear that children born here to tourists or illegal aliens are not birthright citizens. Those regulations, if upheld by the Supreme Court after the inevitable court challenges, would dry up the birth tourism industry at its source. Given the Court’s current rightward tilt and the likelihood of at least one more Trump nominee, the prospects of a favorable decision on the issue are as good as they may ever be.
Coronavirus has caused great damage to our nation’s health, finances and social fabric. At some point in our future, travel restrictions will ease and foreign nationals will again enter the United States. While we should welcome increased travel and commerce, we should have absolutely zero tolerance for those who come here to exploit our laws and receive citizenship benefits for which they are not entitled. The dawning post-virus era demands a new, more pragmatic approach to the security of our nation.
Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.