Cynthia McFadden et al., NBC News, January 10, 2018
Lured by the charm of little Havana or the glamour of South Beach, some 15 million tourists visit Miami every year.
But for a growing number of Russian women, the draw isn’t sunny beaches or pulsing nightclubs. It’s U.S. citizenship for their newborn children.
In Moscow, it’s a status symbol to have a Miami-born baby, and social media is full of Russian women boasting of their little americantsy.
“It’s really common,” said Ekaterina Kuznetsova, 29. “When I was taking the plane to come here, it was not only me. It was four or five women flying here.”
“American passport is a big plus for the baby. Why not?” Olesia Reshetova, 31, told NBC News.
“And the doctors, the level of education,” Kuznetsova added.
The weather doesn’t hurt, either.
“It’s a very comfortable place for staying in wintertime,” Oleysa Suhareva said.
It’s not just the Russians who are coming. Chinese moms-to-be have been flocking to Southern California to give birth for years.
What they are doing is completely legal, as long as they don’t lie on any immigration or insurance paperwork. In fact, it’s protected by the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says anyone born on American soil is automatically a citizen.
The child gets a lifelong right to live and work and collect benefits in the U.S. And when they turn 21 they can sponsor their parents’ application for an American green card.
“Sunny Isles beach has a nickname — Little Russia — because people who are moving from Russian-speaking countries to America, they want . . . a familiar environment.”
“They go across the street, they have Russian market, Russian doctor, Russian lawyer,” he added. “It’s very comfortable for them.”
One firm, Miami Mama, says it brings about 100 Russian and Russian-speaking clients to the U.S. per year, 30 percent of them repeat clients. The owners are Irina and Konstantin Lubnevskiy, who bought Miami Mama after using the firm to have two American children themselves.
“I would like the American people to understand they don’t have to worry,” he added. “Those who come here want to become part of the American people.”
But Miami Mama has drawn scrutiny from law enforcement. In June, it was raided by the FBI, and an employee was convicted of making false statements on passport applications. The owners say they knew nothing about it, fired the worker and their business license was renewed.
There is no official data on birth tourism in the United States. The Center for Immigration Studies, which wants stricter limits on immigration, estimates there are 36,000 babies born in the U.S. to foreign nationals a year, though the numbers could be substantially lower. Florida says births in the state by all foreign nationals who live outside the United States have jumped 200 percent since 2000.
Customs and Border Protection says there are no laws governing whether pregnant foreign nationals can enter the country or give birth here.
In Miami, the Jackson Health System said 72 percent of international maternity patients — who represented 8 percent of all patients giving birth last year — pay with insurance or through a pre-arranged package.