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August 3rd, 2010
Anchor Babies No More! Now Known as "Birth Tourists".

HOUSTON -- Itís the surest way to become a U.S. citizen -- make sure youíre born here...itís an advantage guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
If youíre born here, your citizenship is guaranteed by the Constitution, even if your mother is not a U.S. citizen or is in the country illegally.

"It doesnít speak about the parentage as far as what nationality or status," said Gordon Quan, with FosterQuan, an immigration law firm in Houston.

KHOU began looking into something called birth tourism: Foreigners coming to the U.S. to give birth so their babies become U.S. citizens, eligible for that coveted U.S. passport.

For years, Houstonís Texas Medical Center has promoted itself internationally and has become a destination for people seeking the best care. And that includes women who want to have children.

"We have them come from South America, Latin America, Australia, Europe, Asia," said Dr. Timothy Hickman, a fertility doctor at the Houston IVF Fertility Clinic, located at Memorial Hermannís new complex on the Katy Freeway.

But Dr. Hickman said he thinks the vast majority of his patients are attracted here for the care, not citizenship.

"If that was the case, they didnít tell me about it. Didnít seem like it, they just wanted high-quality obstetric care," he said.

That said, 11 News found it does happen in Houston.

Gordon Quan, the immigration attorney, said his firm has represented pregnant women from countries, including Pakistan and China, who wanted to give birth in Houston.

"Weíve had to work with clients to get extensions of stay so they could be legally here to have their children," said Quan. Though the Office of Homeland Security does not have policies specifically about pregnant women, Quan said officials were not easily persuaded to allow the women to extend their visitors visas.

"I donít think theyíre encouraging it, at all," said Quan.

Quan said his clients were here legally on visitors visas and were wealthy. Thatís a big difference compared to what you may have already heard about -- impoverished, illegal immigrants coming here to give birth, supposedly so their children will qualify for government assistance.

"Weíre the only nation on earth that allows an illegal alien to give birth to an automatic citizen," said U.S. Rep. John Culberson, a Republican from Houston.

Culberson has co-sponsored a bill that would deny citizenship to babies born here to foreigners.

The bill doesnít make any exceptions for "birth tourism." In an interview from Washington D.C., Culberson was asked if birth tourism should be discouraged.

"Well, the person thatís here legally has obviously followed the rules and done the right thing. And the one right thing we want to encourage people to use the visa system," he said.

If the right thing includes getting a U.S. passport for their newborn, attorney Quan said you can hardly blame parents for wanting to give their child every advantage.

"A passport is sometimes key to your future as to where you can go," Quan said. "It gives them an edge in a globally competitive world."





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