Any immigrant wanting to live in the United States will tell you that the road to citizenship is not easy. Aside from the long wait and other legal requirements, citizenship has to be earned and demonstrated by paying homage and exclusive allegiance to the U.S.
However, Chinese consultants promoting “birth tourism” in China think that a U.S. citizenship can be bought. According to this WP piece, a Chinese consultancy in Shanghai can place a pregnant woman in one of the three Chinese-owned “baby care centers” in California for $1,475 for a three-month stay – that is , until the baby is born. The purpose is to take advantage of this country’s birthright citizenship – “the policy whereby the children of illegal aliens born within the geographical limits of the United States are entitled to American citizenship.” These consultants are quick to add that everything they do is legal: “We don’t encourage moms to break the law – just to take advantage of it.”
And U.S. officials agree. They say it is not a crime to travel to the U.S. to give birth so that the child can acquire U.S. citizenship. Says a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Beijing: “You don’t deny someone because you know they’re going to the U.S. to have children.”
But this is a superfluous interpretation of the 14th Amendment , which says that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Prof. Ed Erler of the California State University, San Bernardino, points out that American citizenship has two components: birth or naturalization in the U.S. and being subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. He said that the present-day belief that anyone born in the US is automatically subject to its jurisdiction renders the jurisdiction clause superficial and without force:
Indeed, during debate over the amendment, Senator Jacob Howard of Ohio, the author of the citizenship clause, attempted to assure skeptical colleagues that the new language was not intended to make Indians citizens of the U.S. Indians, Howard conceded, were born within the nation’s geographical limits; but he steadfastly maintained that they were not subject to its jurisdiction because they owed allegiance to their tribes. Senator Lyman Trumbull, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, rose to support his colleague, arguing that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” meant “not owing allegiance to anybody else and being subject to the complete jurisdiction of the United States.” Jurisdiction understood as allegiance, Senator Howard interjected, excludes not only Indians but “persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, [or] who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.” Thus “subject to the jurisdiction” does not simply mean, as is commonly thought today, subject to American laws or American courts. It means owing exclusive political allegiance to the U.S.
Certainly, Chinese parents who come to the US to take advantage of the package that comes with “birth tourism” will not know what lessons in American civics to impart to their U.S.-born children. For citizenship entails much more than what is expedient and profitable.