Expectant Chinese mums hoping to give birth to their children in the US may have to revise their schedules if there is any truth to reports that the Trump administration might slam the door on birthright citizenship.
US-based maternity agencies can expect booming business as Chinese parents rush to take advantage of the last opportunity before Washington stops granting automatic citizenship to babies born on US soil, regardless of the nationality or visa status of their parents.
Pregnant Chinese women flock to the US to give birth and enjoy high-quality obstetric services, many of them seemingly taking a cue from a popular 2013 romantic comedy movie. Finding Mr Right (better known as When Beijing meets Seattle) depicted a young woman from Beijing delivering her out-of-wedlock baby in Seattle.
According to unofficial estimates, around 80,000 Chinese women gave birth in the US last year, compared with only 600 back in 2007. Celebrities like Zhang Ziyi and Yao Ming were among the rich and famous who gave birth to children there.
In many of cases, Chinese women conceal their pregnancy when applying for non-immigrant visas and when passing through immigration and customs checks at airports upon their arrival.
They will then spend months in maternity centres, some of them illegally run, until their babies are born.
They will normally have to pay between 170,000-500,000 yuan (US$24,550-72,220) for all-inclusive packages offered by agencies who exist to take advantage of this specialist market.
Because mothers firmly believe that their babies will lead much better lives in the US, they are willing to spend huge sums and risk overstaying their visas and being fined or deported.
It is also popular among rich Chinese and party cadres to have a second home outside China, usually in the US, in case things go wrong back home.
Now the baby boom could be about to come to an end.
US President Donald Trump is determined to sign an executive order as soon as this month to remove the right to US citizenship from newborns of non-US citizens or unauthorized immigrants.
Under the 14th Amendment to the US constitution, citizenship is granted to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States”. But there is no precedence on the issue concerning how to deny or revoke birthright citizenship granted to babies born to non-Americans.
The possibility of policy change has made panicked Chinese couples rush to the US to secure hospital appointments, while others calculate the best time to conceive so as to make best use of any grace period.
A manager with a Shenzhen-based maternity centre, USA Angel, blamed the media for making a fuss over unconfirmed reports of impending immigration policy change because, even if it happened, related constitutional amendments will take years to pass through the US Congress.