More than 5,000 pregnant Russian women have entered Argentina in recent weeks, including over 30 on a single flight on Thursday (Feb 9), according to Argentinian customs officials. All were reported to be in the final weeks of pregnancy.
Government officials believe the women were taking advantage of visa-free travel from Russia in order to give birth and secure Argentinian citizenship for their children, a privilege guaranteed to all people by the country’s birthright citizenship law. Having an Argentine child also expedites the citizenship process for parents.
Florencia Carignano, the head of the national migration agency, confirmed customs officials had detained some, but not all, of the women. They were eventually released onto Argentine soil.
“The problem is that they come to Argentina, sign up their children as Argentinean, and leave. Our passport is very secure across the world. It allows [those with the passport] to enter 171 countries visa-free,” Carignano told La Nacion.
The news comes as countries around the world, including the entire EU, have suspended tourist visas for Russian citizens, part of international pressure on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the BBC, it is a common business practice in Russia to offer travel packages for pregnant women who wish to give birth in Argentina.
The fraught political history of birth tourism
The practice of birth tourism, or jus soli, gained a national spotlight in 2020 when then–president Donald Trump introduced a series of new immigration laws, including instructing border agents to investigate whether a tourist was likely to give birth during their stay in the US. President Joe Biden reversed the laws soon after he took office in 2021.
However, the issue of immigrants giving birth in a foreign country has been politicized by the right wing in America for many decades. During the Tea Party movement during the Barack Obama presidency, some Republican lawmakers took aim at so-called anchor-babies, a callous moniker for babies born to undocumented immigrants residing in the US, while campaigning on anti-immigrant rhetoric.
In Europe, a number of countries have tightened birth-by-citizenship regulations in recent years as governments manage public opinion regarding the migrant crisis. England famously repealed its original laws on jus soli in 1981 during a wave of immigration, when Home Office minister Timothy Raison said: “We are looking for citizens who have a real connection with the United Kingdom.”
Different ways to get citizenship in another country
🤰Jus soli, or citizenship by birth, is a law that grants citizenship to any person born in a country, their parent’s nationality notwithstanding. It is especially common in the Americas, with the United States, Canada, and practically every country in South America adopting it.
💒 Citizenship by marriage is the most common way to gain citizenship in a foreign country. Allowed in almost every country in the world, it involves marrying someone who already has citizenship. The process is complex and long to ensure it is only used by couples actually in committed relationships.
💰 Citizenship by investment is a way of procuring citizenship in a foreign country by simply paying for it. Typically offered in countries that need influxes of population or capital, the price tag is usually an investment in the local economy with a minimum value of around $100,000 to $500,000.
🌎 Naturalization is, of course, the most common way to become a citizen somewhere new. This means finding a route to get a visa that allows employment in a foreign country and then following the steps toward citizenship. This process is often long and bureaucratic, without any assurance that it will be successful.
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