US visa: Pregnant applicants to face tough scrutiny

In a bid to curb the number of foreigners gaining American citizenship through birth, the Donald Trump administration is set to announce plans to reduce the number of pregnant women coming into the United States.

It has become a common practice among Nigerian women of middle and upper class to give birth to their babies in the US.

Visa applicants deemed by consular officers to be coming to the US primarily to give birth will now be treated like other foreigners coming to the US for medical treatment, according to State Department guidance sent   on Wednesday and viewed by The Associated Press.

The applicants will have to prove they are coming for medical treatment and they have the money to pay for it.

Two government officials told AP that the State Department planned to publicise the rules soon.

The practice of coming to the US to give birth is fundamentally legal, although there are scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion. And women are often honest about their intentions when applying for visas and even show signed contracts with doctors and hospitals.

The Trump administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but the President has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship – anyone born in the US is considered a citizen, under the American constitution.

Trump has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, but scholars and members of his administration have said it’s not so easy to do.

Birth tourism is a lucrative business in both the US and abroad. American companies take out advertisements and charge up to $80,000 to facilitate the practice, offering hotel rooms and medical care.

Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the US. The US has been cracking down on the practice since Trump took office.

The draft rule is “intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” a State Department spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, also known as Shi’ites, has said there is no basis to blame them for the decision of the US to extend visa restrictions to Nigeria.

The President, Media Forum for the IMN, Ibrahim Musa, said the sect was a peaceful movement and had no history of bearing arms even in the face of provocations.

Musa, who spoke with one of our correspondents in Kaduna on Thursday, was reacting to a former Nigerian diplomat, Rasheed Akinkuolie, who linked the US visa restriction on Nigeria to the activities of Shi’ites in the country.

Akinkuolie, a retired Director of Trade and Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had said the US might have included Nigeria on its visa restriction list on the account of Nigeria’s large Shi’ites population.

Akinkuolie had said, “There is a large Shi’ites population in Nigeria and there is a problem between the US and Iran over the killing of the Commander of the Quds Forces, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

“There have been demonstrations in many northern cities and even in Abuja over the killing of Soleimani and they even burnt US flags. That is a signal. Also, remember a Nigerian, Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to bomb an American plane on behalf of Al-Qaeda.”

But the Shi’ites spokesman rejected Akinkuolie’s analysis.

He said, “We are a peaceful movement with no history of terrorist attack ever in spite of unfair profiling and blackmail.

“We have been victims of state terror, including the extrajudicial killing of hundreds of citizens, and the hurried and secret mass burial in mass graves, which, by any standard, is a war crime.

 “Yet, we have never taken up arms against the country or against any foreign nationals or interests in retaliation. Thus, there is no basis for citing us as reason for any US action.”
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