The U.S. Department of State has introduced new regulations to stop "birth tourism", the practice of giving birth in the country to obtain American citizenship for a child.
In the latest immigration control measure, the United States said Thursday it would no longer issue temporary visitor visas to pregnant women seeking to enter the country for so-called "birth tourism."
In announcing the rule change, which takes effect Friday, the White House said foreigners were using the visas "to secure automatic and permanent American citizenship for their children by giving birth on American soil."
"The integrity of American citizenship must be protected," it said in a statement.
"An entire 'birth tourism' industry has evolved to assist pregnant women from other countries to come to the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship for their children by giving birth in the United States, and thereby entitle their children to the benefits of U.S. citizenship," according to the State Department rules.
Calling the practice "a glaring immigration loophole," the White House argued the crackdown on "birth tourism" was for public safety and national security as well as immigration control.
"The birth tourism industry threatens to overburden valuable hospital resources and is rife with criminal activity, as reflected in federal prosecution."
The U.S. constitution guarantees automatic American citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil.
U.S. President Donald Trump has made restricting immigration a top priority of his administration and has threatened in the past to abolish birthright citizenship.
The State Department "does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the United States - an activity commonly referred to as 'birth tourism' - is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature," according to the new rules, which take effect Friday.
Critics say in addition to a rule that is hard to enforce, such restrictions unfairly target women.
"Pregnant women. This is administration is now targeting pregnant. women," tweeted U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "When you single out the most vulnerable, the cruelty is the point."
It is unclear how officials would determine if a pregnant woman is travelling to the U.S. primarily to give birth.
What is Birth Tourism?
Birth tourism is the practice of traveling to another country for the purpose of giving birth in that country. The main reason for birth tourism is to obtain citizenship for the child in a country with birthright citizenship.
Header Image Credit: WBUR