by Jennifer Lahl

The international surrogacy market is fraught with problems, but one major problem that goes largely unnoticed is that U.S. citizenship is being bought and sold to international couples who hire U.S. surrogate mothers to carry their children to birth.

Here is a short primer on how one becomes a U.S. citizen. First, most Americans have birthright citizenship, meaning anyone born on U.S. soil is automatically deemed a citizen of the United States. Second, one can become a citizen through naturalization, which happens by going through the legal immigration steps, applying for citizenship, and having citizenship granted.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has as its first sentence the Citizenship Clause, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

But can you buy citizenship in the United States?

The answer is “Yes,” and it is quite easy and relatively affordable, all things considered. Babies born of U.S. surrogates to international couples are often referred to as anchor babies, because by virtue of being born in the United States, these children secure an anchor as citizens, afforded all the rights and benefits of that citizenship.

And those rights and benefits are many: the right to vote, the right to a U.S. passport, and most importantly, the right to “family unification,” or the provision of a pathway to citizenship for other family members who may want to come to the United States.

As Andy J. Semotiuk wrote in Forbes, “Anchor babies, birth tourism, and surrogacy are pushing the envelope of what are the rights of citizenship in North America.”

Reproductive or birth tourism is a booming business. As one country cracks down on the buying and selling of eggs or sperm, or the renting of uteruses, the Big Fertility market shifts to accommodate the change.

For example, in China, all surrogacy is illegal, as is the sale of human eggs, so the Chinese flock to the United States to buy a baby. In fact, I have interviewed several U.S. surrogates who were contracted to carry babies for couples in China.

One whistleblower I spoke with worked for an agency in southern California and handled the VIP clients. When asked who those clients were, she said she worked solely with Chinese, who came with loads of cash to buy eggs and rent wombs.

She described to me how it wasn’t uncommon for the Chinese to hire two or three surrogates, and once their pregnancies were confirmed and the sex and health of the babies were determined, the couple would choose which pregnancy they wanted to continue and which ones they wanted to be terminated.

If that isn’t enough to say we need to stop this birth tourism industry, perhaps these stories will be. A surrogacy attorney in New Jersey reported that a Chinese person approached her, wanting her to represent him in a U.S. surrogacy arrangement, but what didn’t seem right was this person wanted to hire five surrogates at the same time. In another case, the foreigner “wanted to keep two babies, and put the rest up for adoption,” according to a different surrogacy attorney.

With U.S. citizenship granted to five babies, three of which were going to be put up for adoption, most certainly to the highest bidder, it isn’t much of a leap to think of baby trafficking rings. In fact, two women in Vietnam were busted on a surrogacy baby-selling ring, selling babies to people in China.

And this practice works both ways.

In 2015, three individuals who ran a multimillion-dollar fertility agency in Irvine, California, were arrested “in the biggest federal criminal probe ever to target the thriving industry, in which pregnant women come to the United States to give birth so their children will become American citizens,” according to The New York Times.

The U.S. Department of State has a policy on how U.S. couples who travel abroad to hire a foreign woman as a surrogate can be sure to have U.S. citizenship granted to their baby born of surrogacy in another country. Sadly, the State Department needs to address the problem within our own house, of granting citizenship to anchor babies.

As it stands, when surrogacy is involved, the child is used as a commodity, a means to an end, if you will, and that end is U.S. citizenship.

First published by The Epoch Times