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Trump to Issue New Rule Restricting Visas for Pregnant Women in Latest Attack on Most Vulnerable

"If you think this won't be used to blatantly discriminate against immigrants based on gender and age, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you."

A pregnant Honduran immigrant stands in line with fellow immigrants for a bus to a U.S. destination on August 15, 2016 from McAllen, Texas. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

In the Trump administration's latest effort to restrict travel to the U.S., the U.S. State Department is planning to issue new guidance to consular officers empowering them to refuse visas to pregnant travelers.

The new draft rule is expected to appear in the Federal Register in the coming days and would apply to applicants for B1 and B2 non-immigrant visas, which are given to temporary travelers who come to the U.S. for business, medical treatment, or tourism.

Under the guidance, consular officers will be expected to deny visas to a woman if they suspect she is coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth.

"When you single out the most vulnerable, the cruelty is the point," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in response to the rule, which was first reported on by Buzzfeed.

The Trump administration appears to be cracking down on women who travel to the U.S. to give birth and obtain automatic citizenship for their babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this happened in fewer than 10,000 cases out of 3.8 million births in 2017.

"Any B non-immigrant visa applicant who you have reason to believe will give birth during her stay in the United States is presumed to be traveling for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for the child," the new guidance for consular officers reads. "The applicant can overcome this presumption if you find that the primary purpose of travel is not obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child."

Trump has said repeatedly that his administration is considering trying to end birthright citizenship, which makes most babies U.S. citizens if they are born on U.S. soil—regardless of their parents' immigration status.

Sarah Pierce, an analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, told Buzzfeed that the rule is a "largely symbolic" way to send a message to people traveling to the United States.

"This is mostly symbolic and another way to say the U.S. is closed," Pierce said.

Philip Wolgin, managing director for immigration at the Center for American Progress, wrote that the rule will "be used to blatantly discriminate against immigrants based on gender and age."

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Only consular officers employed by the State Department will be permitted to turn women away if they are suspected of planning to give birth in the U.S. But Wolgin raised concerns the Department of Homeland Security could soon apply similar guidance to women encountering Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the southern U.S. border.

Currently, Wolgin noted, the rule makes clear that a pregnant woman traveling from Mexico may still be allowed into the U.S. under the guidance if she is "lacking appropriate medical facilities" and "arranged a birth plan in the United States based on proximity to her residence in Mexico."

But the rule, he said, could mean that pregnant women "seeking a visa for lifesaving treatment they can't get in their home countries could be barred from entering."

The news of the guidance came as the White House announced Trump will be the first sitting U.S. president to attend the March for Life on Friday.

The annual demonstration protests the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, which enshrined American women's right to abortion care.

Civil rights attorney Jo Kaur considered the implications of the president's attendance at the event at a time when the administration is rolling back the rights of asylum seekers, women who want their children to grow up as U.S. citizens, and pregnant women who may need life-saving treatment they can only get in the United States.

"Helping vulnerable pregnant women maximize their chances of a safe and healthy pregnancy and improve life prospects for their child is not the type of 'life' that his administration and the GOP care about protecting," Kaur wrote.

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