Legislation seeks limit to birth tourism


The House Federal Foreign Affairs Committee chaired by Rep. Luis John DLG Castro (R-Saipan) will entertain in its next meeting a House Joint Resolution that seeks to provide mutual consent to amend the Covenant to limit birth tourism in the CNMI.


Castro in an interview Monday said they feel that the Legislature as well as Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-Saipan) and the Torres administration have seen that birth tourism is a problem over the years has gotten too hard to ignore.

Castro said his committee would be entertaining House Joint Resolution 21-4 in its next meeting to review and see what questions will be raised to this legislation.

House Joint Resolution 21-4 is in the calendar for this Friday’s House special session.

Castro said there are some issues with regard to the situation, including birth right citizenship.

Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao (R-Saipan) introduced House Joint Resolution 21-4 that proposes to amend Article III, Section 303 of the Covenant to establish the CNMI in political union with the U.S.

Article III, Section 303 of the Covenant states that all persons born in the CNMI on or after the effective date of that section, and subject to the U.S. jurisdiction, will be citizens of the U.S. at birth.

Under House Joint Resolution 21-4, all persons born in the CNMI on or after the effective date of Section 303 and subject to the U.S. jurisdiction, having been born to persons domiciled in the CNMI or holding U.S. citizenship, will be citizens of the U.S. at birth.

Section 303 shall not affect persons who have been granted citizenship of the U.S. prior to the effective date of the amendment, the resolution states.

Castro said birth tourism is not a concern in the CNMI alone as there are several places within the U.S. that have that same problem in regard to immigration matters.

“The problem is tough to ignore as time went on,” said Castro, adding that his committee is going to further discuss it or pass. “It’s a very serious matter,” said Castro as he expressed the need to get all the information and concerns so they can figure out what would be the likely resolution in addressing this legislation.

Castro said it is a constitutional issue as the U.S. Constitution as well as the Covenant specifies that there are certain rights.

“If you are born in U.S. soil you are automatically considered a U.S. citizen whether by naturalization or by statute. So those are some of the issues that we are taking into consideration,” he said.

Castro said a lot of times there’s been talk in Washington, D.C. about birth tourism not just between Sablan and the federal government but also between the Torres administration and the federal government.

“Of course, the Legislature sees that this is an issue that has always been kept fresh due to, I guess, its severity. We are here to look at the resolution and see where we can go from there,” he added.

Attao in the resolution disclosed that while overall births in the CNMI have fallen, birth to visitors to the Commonwealth have increased 175 percent between 2010 and 2012 and have outnumbered those of any other ethnicity.

Attao said the CNMI government acknowledges that the rise of birth tourism has had a deleterious effect for Commonwealth residents, including a diminishment of available resources at the Commonwealth Health Center and the fiscal costs associated with tourists who fail to pay the costs of natal treatment, as well as unnecessary risks to the health and safety of the mother and child.

Last Oct. 19, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres requested the initiation of 902 Consultation with the U.S. government regarding the Commonwealth’s continued access to visitors under the Department of Homeland Security’s discretionary parole program.

Last May 15, Torres and U.S. Special Representative Douglas W. Domenech provided President Donald J. Trump with the report of the 902 Consultations.

Torres and Domenech made four recommendations, among them to modify the discretionary parole program of the U.S. Homeland Security to reduce the maximum period of parole from 45 days to 14 and electronic screening and vetting prior to arrival at the port of entry.

Attao said the CNMI has been informed during the 902 Consultations that one of the challenges tied to the existence of the Commonwealth’s discretionary parole program is a recent increase in birth tourism, and found that such rise had had deleterious effects for Commonwealth residents.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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