Sunday, January 19, 2020

Birthright tourism moves birthright citizenship debate... abroad [UPDATED 1/21/2020]

[UPDATE: State Department rule change on vetting for visas suspected of birth tourism covered here and in ImmigProf blog]

This story brings together recent developments in birthright citizenship law and U.S. territories of the Pacific Islands:  the United States is asking travel agencies and airlines to stop allowing pregnant woman to visit the Northern Mariana Islands to give birth.

The US intervention arises in part because any child born in U.S. territories, including America Samoa (where recent litigation has put birthright citizenship in dispute) and the Northern Mariana Islands is eligible for U.S. citizenship. The number of women delivering babies in Saipan has been rising because Chinese pregnant women travel to the Northern Marianas to avoid China's one-child policy and related population controls. The Northern Marianas are convenient for Chinese tourists because Chinese visitors can visit the islands for up to 45 days without a visa. 

In a recent episode (in January 2020), a Japanese citizen was reportedly asked to take a pregnancy test to prove she was not pregnant before boarding a Hong Kong Express Airways flight to Saipan. Midori Nishida was reportedly flying from Hong Kong to Saipan to visit her parents. Once the 25-year-old woman got to the airport for her flight, she says the airline asked her to take a “fit-to-fly” assessment, which includes a pregnancy test — despite the fact that Nishida had already marked that she was not pregnant on the check-in questionnaire she was given. Nishida complied and the test was negative, but called the experience “humiliating and frustrating.” The airline subsequently apologized

In an earlier incident (in 2013), a pregnant Chinese tourist who had arrived on a charter flight from Shanghai late one evening was sent back home early the next morning. She was deemed part of a rising trend reported by the Saipan governor who said at the time that  while overall births in the Northern Marianas have been falling, births to ethnic Chinese rose 175% between 2010 and 2012 and outnumbered those of any other ethnicity.

These stories present a different angle on the birth tourism enforcement effort in maternity hotels in Southern California, which led to several arrests of business owners and hotel operators in early 2019 for conspiracy and visa fraud.


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