‘Birth tourism is not CNMI problem; we aren’t doorkeepers’

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Posted on Jul 19 2019

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The Senate unanimously concurred with the House of Representatives during a session Wednesday on a joint resolution that promises the cooperation of the Legislature on possible constitutional amendments to the way birthright citizenship is conferred in the CNMI.

House Joint Resolution 21-4, sponsored by House Speaker Blas Jonathan “BJ” Attao (R-Saipan), did pass on a unanimous vote at the Senate, but not without some snarky comments from some senators.

The joint resolution would serve as documentation that the CNMI Legislature is willing to cooperate with the United States to amend the Covenant to limit birthright citizenship to children whose mother is either legally employed in the CNMI or a citizen of a nation under the Compact of Free Association.

In careful discussions during the House session last week, representatives voted to pass HJR 21-4 with an amendment to exempt individuals whose sole purpose for visiting the CNMI is to give birth.

“…There is a lot of birth tourism [going on stateside]. I don’t think this is a CNMI problem,” Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) noted during discussions on the bill. “We are not the doorkeepers,” he added, concurring with Sen. Vinson Sablan (Ind-Saipan), who made a similar statement.

Hocog recalled how low the birth tourism numbers were, back when the CNMI handled its own immigration.

“…Because of the discussions that transpire between the 902 talks, maybe [the federal government] has plans,” Hocog said. “…Maybe this would be one way of [asking] for our immigration back.”

Sen. Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) questioned the language of the joint resolution, assuming it would be passed as an amendment to the Covenant.

“What about our EB-5 investors?” he asked, referring to the residential status provided to investors specifically on Tinian. “…We don’t want to inadvertently put the CNMI in a disadvantageous situation.”

Sen. Teresita Santos (Ind-Rota), told Saipan Tribune in a statement that she wishes to know what is in it for the CNMI if it decides to support HJR 21-4.

“It is strongly recommended that our 902 Covenant negotiators negotiate with the U.S. to remit or forward all U.S. citizenship services processing fees in the CNMI to our CNMI government,” she said, citing a similar set up in Guam, which reportedly collects all U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services processing fees. “…Why can’t our CNMI government be also accorded the same?”

Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan) noted that this particular resolution is a mere step in the whole process of 902 discussions.

“…It is a process and [this is just a step],” he said. “…I believe the governor should be giving us reports on the success of our negotiations.”

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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