When does birthright citizenship become citizenship for sale?

No new information and misses government response to petition (the ongoing study):

Kerry Starchuk’s activism begins with homemade granola cookies – specifically, when she took a plate to her new neighbors.

Except the man and a toddler boy who she heard bouncing a basketball outside, and the two pregnant women with them, hadn’t moved into the house next door to hers, where she has lived since 1988. Visitors from China, they were residing in her neighborhood only temporarily and didn’t respond to her greeting. After they awkwardly accepted her cookies, she never saw the group again.

It wasn’t the first time she’d seen pregnant women coming and going in her neighborhood or heard about why they were there. But the meeting began her personal battle against “birth tourism,” where wealthy mothers like the ones she encountered next door pay to give birth, get citizenship for their babies, and return home.

It is an issue gaining prominence across North America, where jus soli, or rules by which citizenship is determined by birthplace, is the standard practice (yet otherwise rare among developed countries, as in Europe where citizenship is more restricted and often granted along bloodlines). An online petition that Ms. Starchuk started against the practice last year, garnering some 11,000 signatures, was supported by a federal Liberal lawmaker representing Richmond. Meanwhile, the federal Conservatives, in opposition during an election year, voted on a motion last summer to tighten laws around birthright citizenship. In the United States, President Donald Trump has said he will end it by executive order.

Mr. Trump’s threat drew widespread criticism by critics who call it anti-immigrant pandering. But concerns about citizenship rules span partisan lines. In Canada, a poll from the Angus Reid Institute in March showed that while more believe birthright citizenship is a good policy than a bad one (40% versus 33%), 60% believed rules needed to be tightened to counter abuse of the system.

Ms. Starchuk, a part-time housecleaner, insists her position is not anti-Chinese or anti-immigrant but is about rules and values, especially in a region where foreign wealth and capital have changed the face of communities. In Richmond, the mothers hail mostly from China, lured by advertisements that sell all-inclusive packages including a stay at a “birth hotel.” Other hospitals in Toronto and Montreal have seen increases in mothers from Eastern Europe or Africa. A recent data analysis showed Richmond’s local hospital with the highest percentage of births to mothers residing outside Canada.

“It does undermine me, because I’m trying to build community and welcome my neighbors to the neighborhood,” she says. “And then I find out it’s not a single-family home where there’s going to be a new family but an international, underground birth-tourism hotel. … It’s like selling citizenship.”

An abuse of the system?

The issue under debate in Canada, which established citizenship rules under the 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act, is largely about the power of foreign money and how it devalues citizenship. The debate in the U.S., on the other hand, sometimes targets so-called anchor babies but revolves around undocumented migration. It was rekindled last fall with Mr. Trump’s threat, which has been highly polarizing.

The national conversations converge around questions of fairness and the changes people fear and perceive around them.

Joe Peschisolido, a Liberal lawmaker, says birth tourism is an abuse of the system. ‘It’s a business where people are making money off of the goodness of Canadians.’

Martha Jones, who wrote “Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America,” says that citizenship is always an evolving political question. In the U.S., questions about birthright citizenship arose in the early 19th century around the status of former slaves, which culminated in the 14th Amendment in 1868.

But that didn’t settle the issue, and in some ways the debate today is analogous to the one around former slaves because it leaves an entire class of people in a legal limbo. “It is a tragic example of the ways in which American lawmakers have failed in my view to fulfill their obligation to extend to people some basic sense of who they are,” Ms. Jones says.

In Canada, the Conservatives last summer voted that the party should support the position that a baby born in Canada should receive citizenship only if one parent is a Canadian or permanent resident.

Not all Conservatives agree with their party. Deepak Obhrai, a Tory lawmaker from Calgary, says that birth tourism abuses could be addressed with immigration procedures that target the parents but not the child. “It takes away the fundamental right of the child,” he says. “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

Those fighting birth tourism have been accused of overexaggerating the problem. Federal statistics show only 313 births by nonresident mothers in 2016. But new research using hospital financial data puts the number at 3,223 that year. One of 5 births at Richmond Hospital is to nonresident mothers, those figures show.

Joe Peschisolido, the Liberal lawmaker who sponsored Ms. Starchuk’s petition and is awaiting a government response, says it might not be illegal, but that doesn’t make it right. “It’s an abuse of the system,” he says at his offices in Richmond. “It’s a business where people are making money off of the goodness of Canadians.”

And it’s something that many in the community care about, he says. His next meeting is with a constituent who, on his way in, says he’s here to talk to Mr. Peschisolido about ending “birth tourism.”

Among some of the fiercest critics of birth tourism are Chinese immigrants in Richmond.

“Why would the parents want to get their children Canadian citizenship if they themselves don’t want Canadian citizenship?” says one mother, who didn’t want to share her name. She’s at Parker Place, one of several shopping centers catering to the Chinese community.

She emigrated to Canada in 1990 from Beijing and says she had to work hard to learn English. But today, Richmond is 54% Chinese, compared with 34% in 1996. And now newer Chinese immigrants don’t learn the language as she had to, she says, and Mandarin is increasingly heard in town.

‘It’s the unfairness of it’

It is easy to dismiss Ms. Starchuk, who also ran a campaign against Chinese-only signage in Richmond, in a country that embraces multicultural tolerance. But, as a fourth-generation resident of Richmond that has always been diverse, she says her fight is about inclusion and maintaining a healthy community.

This battle is, in fact, amplified by the backdrop of larger changes taking place around her in Greater Vancouver. Foreign money has pushed up housing prices and displaced locals, including her own grown children, who she says haven’t been able to purchase homes and instead rent in Richmond.

She says she probably wouldn’t have gotten involved in the birth tourism fight if it had not been in her backyard, literally.

“This is not ‘a nothing issue,’” says Ms. Starchuk, who has binders full of letters, petitions, and news clips she’s collected about her efforts.

She says not everyone will agree with her. “Some will say, about birth tourism, that they will do whatever they can to get to Canada, even if I have to cheat. Others will say, ‘I paid for it. Why shouldn’t I be able to get what I want?’”

Ultimately, though, it violates her sense of what it means to be Canadian.

“It’s the unfairness of it,” she says. “Citizenship is not partisan, Liberal or Conservative, but about Canadian values. When you’re an immigrant, you take and you contribute.”

“This,” she says, “is a free-for-all.”

Source: When does birthright citizenship become citizenship for sale?

‘Birth Tourism’ Is Legal in Canada. A Lawmaker Calls it Unscrupulous.

Good overview of the issues involved and interesting details on the support birth tourism “industry,” My study cited (Hospital stats show birth tourism rising in major cities) and I am quoted along with others:

Melody Bai arrived in Vancouver from China in the late stages of pregnancy with one goal: to give birth to a Canadian baby.

Awaiting her was an elaborate ecosystem catering to pregnant women from China, including a spacious “baby house” where she spent four months, attended to by a Mandarin-speaking housekeeper.

Caregivers offered free breast massages to promote lactation, outings to the mall, lectures on childbirth with other Chinese mothers-to-be and excursions for high tea.

“It’s an investment in my child’s education,” Ms. Bai, a 28-year-old flight attendant, said by phone from Shanghai, months after returning to China with her newborn and passport in hand. “We chose Canada because of its better natural and social environment.”

Ms. Bai is part of a growing phenomenon in Canada known as birth tourism, which is not only generating political opposition, but mobilizing self-appointed vigilantes determined to stop it.

It is perfectly legal.

Under the principle of jus soli — the right of the soil — being born in Canada confers automatic citizenship. But as more pregnant women arrive each month to give birth, some Canadians are protesting that they are gaming the system, testing the limits of tolerance and debasing the notion of citizenship.

In Richmond, a city outside Vancouver where about 53 percent of its roughly 200,000 residents are ethnic Chinese, nonresident mothers account for one in five births at the Richmond Hospital, the largest number of nonresident births of any hospital in the country, according to a recent report.

“Birth tourism may be legal, but it is unethical and unscrupulous,” said Joe Peschisolido, a Liberal member of Parliament in Richmond, who brought a petition against the practice to Ottawa, where the immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, said he would examine the issue.

The practice underlines how Canada, and British Columbia in particular, has become a favored haven for well-heeled Chinese seeking a refuge for wealth and kin away from authoritarian China.

The issue of birthright citizenship gained global attention in October after President Trump said he wanted to eliminate it, though it is enshrined in the American Constitution.

At least 30 other countries, including Canada, Mexico and Brazil, grant automatic birthright citizenship. Others like Britain and Australia have tightened their laws by requiring that at least one parent be a citizen or permanent resident at the time of the child’s birth.

Indicating that immigration could be an issue in federal elections next year in Canada, the opposition Conservative party this summer endorsed a nonbinding motion calling for unconditional birthright citizenship to be abolished.

In the recent report, from the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Andrew Griffith, a former director general at the government department responsible for immigration, showed that the number of children born to nonresidents in Canada was at least five times as high as previously thought — close to 1,500 to 2,000 annually.

Mr. Griffith argues that Canada intended birthright citizenship for those who wanted to live in and contribute to the country. “Since those engaging in birth tourism have no or barely any real link to Canada,” he said, “the practice is challenging a very Canadian value of fair play.”

With its sprawling Chinese food markets, Chinese-language newspapers and large number of caregivers speaking Mandarin, Richmond has become ground zero for birth tourists from China.

About two dozen baby houses are in operation. Visits to about 15 addresses showed that some operate openly while others work under licenses as tour agencies or present themselves as holiday rentals. Some are in homes. Others are in apartments. Many are booked through agents and brokers in China.

In a visit to one, the Baoma Inn, a modern house across from a park, a woman in the late stages of pregnancy could be seen in a second-floor window. A young man who answered the door confirmed that the inn was a baby house before another angrily slammed the door.

But during a telephone call in Mandarin inquiring about the Inn’s services, a man said it offered a one-stop package including “guaranteed appointments” with “the No. 1 obstetrician in British Columbia,” who spoke Mandarin and had “a zero accident rate.”

Customers usually stay for three months, he said, including one month after the birth, to allow time to apply for a passport for the newborn and to recuperate, as is the Chinese custom.

He added that his agency had seven sales offices in China. The bill for a three-month stay at a two-bedroom apartment, not including meals and prenatal care, is about 25,000 Canadian dollars ($18,331).

“The women all go back to China,” he said. “They don’t enjoy any social benefits from the Canadian government and don’t need it.”

Bob Huang, who with his wife runs Anxin Labour Service, a birthing center in the nearby city of Burnaby, said he was frequently contacted by agents in China who wanted a 50 percent commission on every successful referral. He said he preferred to post his own ads on local Chinese classifieds websites.

Some Richmond residents say birth tourism is undermining the community’s social fabric.

Kerry Starchuk, a self-described “hockey mom” who spearheaded the petition championed by Mr. Peschisolido, documents baby houses in her neighborhood and passes the information on to the local news media and city officials.

On a recent morning, she received an anonymous tip on Facebook that as many as 20 pregnant “birth tourists” from China were being housed in a nearby modernist high rise.

Rushing to her minivan, she drove to a parking garage beneath a Chinese supermarket. She then hurried outside to case out a nearby building, suspiciously eyeing a pregnant Chinese woman walking by. After entering the building, Ms. Starchuk was foiled by a locked stairwell, adding the high rise to her list for another day.

Ms. Starchuk complains that birth tourists bump local mothers from maternity wards, a concern echoed by some local nurses, and get access to public services without paying taxes.

She also said the so-called “anchor babies” threatened to burden Canada by emigrating and studying here, and sponsoring their parents to become permanent residents.

Some first- and second-generation immigrants in Richmond say birth tourists have an unfair advantage by jumping the immigration queue.CreditAlana Paterson for The New York Times

The issue has become conflated with resentment in the Vancouver area against soaring housing prices, which some residents blame on an influx of wealthy Chinese.

But Ms. Bai, who had her baby in Vancouver in February, said that given the hefty price she had paid to give birth here — 60,000 Canadian dollars, including housing and hospitalization — she was subsidizing the Canadian health care system and contributing to the local economy.

“My child won’t be enjoying any Canadian health benefits, as we are living in China,” she said.

Since her son is Canadian, however, she and her husband, a pilot, could save about 150,000 Canadian dollars on tuition fees at an international school in Shanghai.

After gaining fluency in English and Western culture, her son could also later attend a Canadian university at the discounted local rate. Eventually, the entire family could emigrate to Canada.

Some first- and second-generation immigrants oppose birth tourists for jumping the queue.

“I don’t think it is fair to come here, give birth and leave,” said Wendy Liu, a Richmond resident of 11 years, adding that she had been repeatedly harassed after Ms. Starchuk mistakenly put her house on a list of birth tourism centers.

Birth tourism at Richmond Hospital recently came under the spotlight because of a so-called “million dollar baby.”

A nonresident, Yan Xia, gave birth there, racked up a bill of 312,595 Canadian dollars in maternity and neonatal care for her newborn because of complications, and then absconded without paying the bill, according to a civil claim the hospital filed at British Columbia’s Supreme Court in April, six years after Ms. Xia gave birth.

Including six years’ worth of interest, Ms. Xia’s bill would amount to about 1.2 million Canadian dollars.