An Obama-era policy, created in 2009, has turned the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands into a hot spot for birth tourism schemes, “as Chinese women flock to the islands to deliver babies who automatically become American citizens,” reports the Washington Times.
Under the policy, Chinese nationals can visit the Pacific island commonwealth without having to apply or receive a visa. In turn, this means they don’t have to go through a State Department screening over their reasons for travel like they would if they were to visit the continental U.S., creating a bonafide birthright citizenship loophole.
The Washington Times reports the disturbing facts:
Foreigners quickly took notice. After the 2009 change, the number of babies delivered by foreign women in the Northern Mariana Islands each year rose from fewer than 10 to nearly 600 in 2018.
The Saipan Tribune reported that during one period in 2015 and 2016, 95% of those births were to parents of Chinese descent. The others were Korean, Filipino, Japanese and Russian.
It’s not clear how many of the parents were longtime residents and how many were “birth tourists.”
Whatever the final numbers, Rep. Thomas P. Tiffany and Rep. Glenn Grothman, the two Republican lawmakers shining a light on this issue, called the parole policy “extremely imprudent.” They went on to say, “the CNMI Chinese parole program is a dangerous loophole in America’s immigration system that has been allowed to remain wide open for far too long, and it should be closed,” even asked acting Secretary Chad Wolf to “immediately end” the program.
Bob Schwalbach, chief of staff for Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the Northern Mariana Islands‘ representative in Congress, defended the arrangement. He told the Washington Times:
The Trump administration has recognized the economic importance of permitting Chinese tourists to enter the Marianas under parole and over the last four years kept the program in place.
Congressman Sablan made the case for Chinese tourism when the Obama administration first set up the parole program in 2009. And Congressman Sablan will be working with the Biden administration to ensure — once the pandemic is behind us and tourism can safely resume — that Chinese tourists may continue to enter the Marianas easily.
Being a U.S. territory, federal immigration laws began to apply there in 2008, just one year before DHS began to oversee immigration, the Secretary at the time, Janet Napolitano, set in place a rule allowing Russians and Chinese nationals to visit the island for up to 45 days without a visa.
Russia’s status was ended last year by acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan. Parole was maintained for China, though CBP cut the maximum visit to two weeks, still leaving plenty of time for planned births.
“Homeland Security, in removing Russia from of the program last year, said most of those visitors should be able to obtain visas. But the department said the security risks of visa-free travel were too great, whatever the economic benefits to the territory. Rep. Tiffany and Rep. Grothman said Mr. Wolf should apply that same reasoning to Chinese visitors,” as reported by the Washington Times.
“U.S. states and territories should not be operating parallel immigration systems through administrative fiat, and Chinese nationals should be required to meet the same standards to visit the CNMI that they must meet to visit any other part of the United States,” the lawmakers said.
Unfortunately, birth tourism extends well beyond the Northern Mariana Islands. Just this week in New York, prosecutors unsealed charges against several individuals accused of running a birth tourism scam aimed at exploiting America’s chain migration system, helping Turkish women enter the U.S. under false pretenses to deliver babies on U.S. soil, then bill the government through Medicaid.
For the complete story, please visit The Washington Times.
Updated: Fri, Dec 18th 2020 @ 11:50am EST