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Monday, April 21, 2014

Saipan’s birth tourism gets nat’l media attention, anew

House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) tasked late afternoon yesterday the committees on Tourism and Federal and Foreign Relations to review and recommend action, if any, on the so-called “birth tourism,” following another national media coverage of the issue involving Chinese tourists traveling to Saipan for the sole purpose of giving birth to automatic U.S. citizens.

ABC News reported yesterday on Saipan’s birth tourism, three months after they sent an investigative news crew to the island.

The network’s “Inside Saipan’s Industry of ‘American-Born Chinese Babies” says Saipan is experiencing a baby boom, referring to a substantial increase in the number of babies born to Chinese mother—from only eight in 2009 to 282 in 2012. In 2009, the U.S. government allowed a U.S. visa-free visit to the CNMI of Chinese and Russian tourists.

The ABC News story did point out that birth tourism is not illegal but there are critics, including Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

“When they come of age, they can apply to bring their families into the United States,” ABC News quoted King as saying. “It looks to me that we’ve got a rather open door in the Northern Marianas and we should figure out how to close it.”

At yesterday’s CNMI House session, Rep. Janet Maratita (Ind-Saipan) shared the ABC News story to her colleagues, reading almost the entire text before the session was to adjourn.

The speaker later referred the matter to two committees for review and recommendation.

Rep. Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan), Tourism Committee chairman, said his panel will work on the matter. But Yumul told his colleagues to be mindful that birth tourism is “nothing new” and the ABC News report is just the latest of the many national news organizations that reported on the matter for years.

He said those on the mainland “should also be looking at their own doors” before looking into Saipan’s, referring to tens of thousands born every year to foreign tourists on the U.S. mainland compared to 282 on Saipan in 2012.

Other lawmakers said there is no distinction whether the babies born on Saipan in 2012, for example, were to Chinese mothers working on Saipan for years or to Chinese mothers posing as tourists.

Rep. Trenton Conner (Ind-Tinian), chairman of the Federal and Foreign Relations Committee, said the CNMI no longer controls its border. He said it is now in the hands of the U.S. government through the Department of Homeland Security.

The ABC News story can also be accessed at http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/02/inside-saipans-industry-of-american-born-chinese-babies/.

In November, Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) sent another letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, citing specific suggestions to curb birth tourism such as requiring “all” airlines flying to the CNMI to adopt the pre-screening and other strategies that charter tour flights have developed to deter travel to the islands for the sole purpose of giving birth to an automatic U.S. citizen.

“Birth tourism” refers to travel for the purpose of giving birth to an automatic U.S. citizen child in the CNMI or any other U.S. state or territory.

The United States is one of a few countries that observe jus soli, which grants automatic citizenship to children born within its territory, regardless of the parents’ nationality or citizenship.

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