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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chinese Women Give Birth in the US to Thwart the One-Child Policy

Open immigration undermines state coercion


“If people are bringing pregnant women to have babies simply because they can do it, then there ought to be greater enforcement,” Jeb Bush said last month.

He later clarified, “frankly it’s more related to Asian people.”

Few media outlets have explained that Chinese mothers choose to have their babies in America not “simply because they can do it” but because their government prohibits them from having more than one child. 

Some Chinese women, a small percentage of Chinese tourists to the United States, use U.S. tourist visas to thwart the communist regime’s population control policy. First instituted in the 1970s, the one-child limit has led to a legion of cruel and inhumane abuses: forced abortions, compulsory sterilizations, gender-selective abortions, abandoned children, government corruption, and, most obviously, fewer productive people.

The rise of the Chinese middle class has enabled many more Chinese families to afford the trip to the United States to have a second child. A woman named Liou told the Los Angeles Times that she only came to the United States to “skirt China’s one-child policy” and will return to China after giving birth.

America is not alone in witnessing this influx of Chinese women. Canada has also seen a rise of agencies helping families circumvent the Communist policy.

“If I’m a single child, and my husband is too, the policy says we can have two kids, but my husband has a brother,” one woman told Canada TV. “Two children can play together,” she said, telling the station that she “always envied people with brothers and sisters.”

For this woman, like many Chinese, having a second child in China may not only mean a massive $32,000 penalty and the loss of her job within a state-owned industry, but often forced sterilization. Because children born outside China are not counted against the policy, tourist visas often provide the only avenue for women to lawfully have multiple children. Editorials in papers not controlled by the state lament the lost spending by wealthy parents who travel to the United States due to the child restriction.

Nor is the phenomenon unique to locations with birthright citizenship, like Canada and the United States. In 2012, Hong Kong saw nearly three and half times as many births to mainland Chinese women as the United States, 34,000 to roughly 10,000 in the US. In 2011, the Hong Kong number was 41,000, before the government capped the number of Chinese allowed to give birth in the city, possibly forcing more Chinese women to the United States.

A Shanghai reporter sums up the situation:

American journalists continue to generate stories about birth tourists from China, most often explaining them as seekers of the American dream. They rarely touch on what the Chinese people, and their media, know is a leading cause of the phenomenon: an attempt to evade the Chinese government’s population controls.

Some Chinese women forced to give birth outside of China no doubt choose the United States to give their children a shot at the opportunities it offers. But it was a forced choice to begin with. The worst case scenario for the United States is that America ends up with tens of thousands of dollars in economic activity from each Chinese mother and more citizens like Bruce Lee who returned to the country of his birth after many years to contribute to it.

Early this year, the Obama administration started cracking down against agencies that support these women, but anti-immigration groups want the government to go further and prosecute the mothers themselves.

“It’s a good start,” Jon Feere of the Center for Immigration Studies told the New York Times. “But if the government isn’t going to prosecute the actual birth tourists [mothers], or prevent the issuance of passports to the babies, this may not have much effect.” CIS analyst Jessica Vaughn told Fox News that the women were acting solely for their own “economic self-interests or potentially more nefarious purposes.”

It’s not terribly surprising that CIS wants to prosecute mothers who escape China’s one-child policy: its own anti-immigration position (and that of its sister groups NumbersUSA and FAIR) is based on a population control agenda. John Tanton, the radical environmentalist who founded all three organizations, is a strong advocate of coercive population control methods, and FAIR’s President Dan Stein calls the one-child policy an “international family planning program.”

Any move by the United States to prosecute these women would constitute direct support for China’s brutal one-child policy. Conservative policymakers should ignore these anti-conservative voices and look to an era when the United States combatted Communist oppression with a more open and humane immigration policy for people fleeing its control.

We should reform the law to make it easier for desperate people to escape. Prosecuting these women would aid the enemies of freedom, result in more abortions and sterilizations, and stamp out the joy of new life for many Chinese families.

A version of this post was published at the Niskanen Center.


  • David J. Bier is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.