Associated Press Debunks The ‘Birth Tourism’ Myth

Earlier this summer, when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested that he may try to amend the Constitution to deny the American-born children of undocumented immigrants citizenship, he argued that “[p]eople come here to have babies. They come here to drop a child. It’s called ‘drop and leave.’” Graham also claimed that there is a rampant problem of “birth tourism,” or pregnant women coming to the U.S. on tourist visas simply to have children who are automatically American-born citizens. Meanwhile, other lawmakers support changing the 14th amendment’s citizenship requirements because granting automatic citizenship “encourages” illegal immigration.

However, the Associated Press reports that, though it exists, the trend is “not as dramatic as some immigration opponents have claimed”; Out of 340,000 babies born to illegal immigrants in the United States in 2008, 85 percent of the parents had been in the country for more than a year, and more than half for at least five years”, Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer for Pew, told The Associated Press.

And immigration experts say it’s extraordinarily rare for immigrants to come to the U.S. just so they can have babies and get citizenship. In most cases, they come to the U.S. for economic reasons and better hospitals, and end up staying and raising families.”

Watch ABC’s segment on “birth tourism”:

The Associated Press concedes that, “some pregnant Mexican women do come to the United States. In border cities like Nogales, women have been coming to the U.S. for decades to give birth.” However, the article explains that most of those women are seeking better medical care, not citizenship.

All in all, neither citizenship nor health care is what drives immigrants to the U.S. Princeton University sociologist Douglas Massey, who is quoted in the piece and has surveyed Mexican immigrants to the U.S. for 30 years, has explained in the past that “no one ever mentioned having kids in the U.S…what our work shows is that migrants come in response to labor demand in the U.S. and are motivated by economic problems at home.”

In fact, Massey suggests that tightened border security might be responsible for the number of pregnant, immigrant women giving birth in the U.S.: “They end up having babies in the United States because men can no longer circulate freely back and forth from homes in Mexico to jobs in the United States and husbands and wives quite understandably want to be together.”

Finally, if the 14th amendment really was driving undocumented immigrants to the U.S., sociologists note there would be a higher percentage of women of child-bearing age in the U.S. illegally compared to men of the same age. However, data shows just the opposite. Undocumented men significantly outnumber undocumented women.

Andrea Christina Nill

Reposted with permission from The Wonk Room.


  1. says

    Duh, current statistics don’t provide any guarantee that in this shrinking world birth tourism can’t become a big problem without a change in the law making it pointless. When it comes to Mexico, though, we have to quit treating Mexicans as an alien race and the border as anything but a temporary political line in the map that can be erased forever under the right conditions so that we can all share the New World in peace and prosperity under one govt. not two – the U.S. one. Help spread the message about the Megamerge Dissolution Solution and read about it at

    • Annette says

      Your megamerge idea is stupid. Mexico’s economy is even more unequal than ours, with very few super rich and millions of very, very poor people. The super rich in Mexico are deliberately creating immense poverty because they can control the population that way. Extreme poverty coupled with ignorance results in a malleable workforce to make the rich richer.

      Winslow’s solution would be to make the USA look like Mexico. Megamerge would destroy our middle class and create a perpetual workforce for multinationals. It’s a stupid idea, and it makes me wonder if someone’s paying old TL Winslow to promote it over and over on progressive sites.

      Instead, we should use economic pressure to encourage Mexico to support their middle class and to take care of their own poor, including instituting population control methods. Trying to merge the US and Mexico would simply destroy what we’ve created here with a strong middle class that demands fair workplace laws and reasonable pay.

  2. Progressive Mix says

    There is a very active maternity tourism business. I know because I work in it. We advertise to families all over Asia, North America and South America. We have “testimonials” by parents who convince other people to have their kid on US soil so they can be American citizens. Many Asians come here, have a baby, go back home to raise their kid, then send them to college in the US because college acceptance prioritizes their US citizen kid over others, and they can get public support to pay for college. We have advertising for Latin American countries as well, only it’s focused on the benefits of being able to move and work here in the US if the kid is born here.

    Your article and the AP opinion piece is WRONG. People all over the world know that if they get here while pregnant, and have their baby here, their kid is automatically an American citizen, entitled to all of the freebie benefits they want, from medical care to free college and even Social Security, even though their parents never paid a dime into the system.

    If “birth tourism” doesn’t really exist, then why are you so desperate to make sure the birthright citizenship rule is changed?

    • Progressive Mix says

      I meant why are you so desperate to make sure the birthright citizenship rule ISN’T changed. Fixing that loophole would solve the problem. People who come here illegally can be deported, and so can their kids. At least then bleeding heart liberals won’t be complaining that we’re “breaking up families” by deporting lawbreakers.

      • Jackie says

        It’s true, people absolutely DO come here to have babies. So the AP says there’s “no evidence” of that? Bull. How would they GET evidence? There’s no way to prove it. That doesn’t mean that people don’t do it, and probably by the tens or hundreds of thousands.

        I lived in Hawaii and I personally know Asians and Filipinos and Samoans and Malaysians and Micronesians, etc. who come to Hawaii to have kids, then move back to their country of origin where it’s cheaper to live. That way their kids can get priority acceptance at US colleges and can get public funding for college. If something happens to their kid, they just go back to the US and get the kid on freebie Social Security, even though they never paid into the Social Security Fund. Since they were born on American soil, they automatically get Medicaid and money for disability thanks to America’s taxpayers.

        Birthright citizenship is a joke. It’s was designed hundreds of years ago when people couldn’t travel easily from country to country. Now you can fly to the US, pop out a baby, and instantly access all benefits of citizenship.

        When liberals demand we not change the birthright citizenship rule, they’re saying we should continue to let anyone in the world cheat us out of our resources simply by traveling to the US and having a baby here. Right now, anyone from any other country can come here as a visitor and their kid is instantly a citizen and instantly eligible for all our programs we set up for our own poor and the US taxpayer will be stuck paying for the bill.

        There is no good reason for keeping the birthright citizenship rule in place anymore. It’s archaic, outdated and a terrible enticement for abuse by people all around the world. It also allows people to jump ahead of the immigration line because all those babies and kids are automatically a priority over potential adult workers who could come here and actually help our country.

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