The administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is confident that his recent appearance in Fox News’ Tucker Carlson will not affect the CNMI-only discretionary parole program, contrary to the belief of Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan).
In his recent television appearance on Fox News, Torres stressed that his administration is against birth tourism in the CNMI. Propst frets, however, in a social media post that the way the TV program framed the issue might put the discretionary parole program in jeopardy.
The discretionary parole program allows tourists from China and Russia to enter the CNMI without a visa. What awaits them is a vetting process at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.
In a statement issued in response to Torres’ appearance on the TV show, the Torres administration pointed out that Torres led the CNMI in the recent 902 Consultations to “save” the parole program, “protect our economy, and promote our national security interests.”
“The discretionary parole program was saved because of conversations the governor led with the White House and other federal partners to articulate our position,” the statement added.
The administration statement further noted that the parole program had always been used as leverage to express the U.S. federal government’s discontent with the birth tourism numbers in the CNMI.
The Torres administration notes that both the Obama and Trump administrations have threatened to take away the parole program because of birth tourism.
The Torres administration pointed out that there had been a “huge reduction” in birth tourism numbers from 2018 to 2019 as a result of the administration’s coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security, the White House, and airlines on monitoring pregnant passengers from “around our Asian source markets.”
“Birth tourism went up every year from 2013 to 2018, [from] 287 to a peak of 582. The Commonwealth Health Care Corp. dataset reflects that,” the administration statement noted.
The statement said that the bigger issue is that the CNMI can no longer tolerate birth tourism because it puts a strain on the CNMI’s health care resources at CHCC and hampers economic growth.
In a social media post, Propst refuted the Fox News report on birth tourism in the CNMI, specifically the numbers it cited.
“…It…is not as bad as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson claimed. [Carlson] stated in an interview with [Torres] that ‘every month, tens of thousands of tourists come to the Northern Mariana Islands to give birth’—that is a bold-faced lie that needs to be corrected,” Propst noted in his social media post.
Propst also cited numbers obtained from CHCC, which indicate a spike in tourist births from 2009’s 51 to 2018’s 582. Of the 582 births in 2018, 575 were Chinese.
“…That translates to 98.8% of birth tourism coming from China,” he noted in his post.
The real fear, according to Propst’s post, is rescinding the parole program, which contributes to about 40% of the CNMI’s economy.
“The fact is, this interview with Tucker Carlson may put the CNMI’s parole program for Chinese tourists at risk. Since 98.8% of birth tourism in the CNMI comes from China, the only realistic way to reduce this number is to eliminate the parole program that is exclusively limited to the CNMI,” he noted.
“…So, if Trump believes that ‘every month, tens of thousands of tourists are coming to the Northern Mariana Islands to give birth,’ he may decide to cancel the parole program that allows Chinese tourists to visit our islands,” he added.
“I highly recommend this administration take time to look at the number of tourist births for 2019. What they will see is that tourist births have dropped considerably. Over seven months, from January to July of 2019, there were only 149 tourist births. That is far less than the 582 tourist births from 2018,” he added.