Letter to Department of State on the Final Rule, “Visas: Temporary Visitors for Business or Pleasure”

On March 9th, Children’s HealthWatch sent a letter to Secretary Pompeo to express our deepest alarm with the Department of State’s (“the Department”) recent final rule, “Visas: Temporary Visitors for Business or Pleasure” published on January 24, 2020, with no opportunity for public comment. As pediatricians, public health researchers, and child health and policy experts, we strongly oppose the published changes to the issuance of class B nonimmigrant visas that will restrict the travel of certain pregnant or suspected-to-be pregnant women to the United States.

The published rule does harm: it will allow for racial/ethnic profiling of women seeking even brief entry to the United States – including those who are not pregnant, but judged to be potentially-pregnant – in an attempt to curtail the migration and growth of naturalized citizens of the United States, and will undermine the dignity and autonomy of women of color. Furthermore, it will impact the health and well-being of immigrant communities within the United States, including children. Finally, the rule represents a larger effort to curtail immigration of people who cannot pass a wealth test, due to its application only to the specific lower income countries designated.

No person should be subject to such demeaning levels of scrutiny and coercion solely based on how they look and their perceived reasons for simply traveling to another country. Pregnancy is not a threat to national security; this rule is a violation of human rights and lacks any legal or data-driven justification. This rule will have extensive harmful impacts on communities within our country, including children, as it will increase fear, and further perpetuate health disparities and discrimination. We strongly oppose this administrative action that will harm the health of children and their families, and we urge the administration to rescind the finalized rule immediately and in its entirety.