WSJ: Visa Loophole Allows ‘Birth Tourism’ Industry in Saipan

saipan
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

Chinese and American entrepreneurs are using a visa loophole in border regulations to sell the hugely valuable prize of U.S. citizenship to hundreds of Chinese people.

They are using a 2009 regulation which allows pregnant Russians and Chinese to fly into the island of Saipan without a visa. In the rest of the United States, visitors must get a visa which can be revoked by border officials who watch for the arrival of pregnant foreigners who intend to birth their children in the United States.

Foreigners who give birth on U.S. soil grab birth-citizenship for their children. That federal giveaway exists because of the legally questionable practice of providing citizenship to everyone born on U.S. soil, even if both parents are illegal immigrants, tourists or other visitors. The giveaway allows Chinese and other entrepreneurs to create a semi-hidden “birth-tourism” industry to bring many pregnant foreigners into the United States.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The Northern Marianas, an island chain that includes Saipan, is the only U.S. soil that Chinese can visit without a visa, after a change in immigration policy in 2009 allowed Chinese and Russian tourists visa-free entry for up to 45 days.

“It’s just like if God opened a window for you,” said a Chinese father who works as a translator here after coming a few years ago to ensure his child would be born American.

The Northern Marianas pressed for the visa waiver to support an economy reliant on tourism, notably to Saipan’s casinos and gambling parlors. The number of Chinese visitors has risen substantially since 2009 and now represents 36% of tourists to the island, which is four to five hours’ flight from Shanghai and Guangzhou. Tourism accounts for 72% of Saipan’s economy.

The Saipan business community doesn’t want to block the birth-tourism, according to the Wall Street Journal:

“Federal and local authorities should know where birth tourists are being housed and should be able to identify overstayers,” said Gregorio Sablan, the Northern Marianas’ congressional representative. “Cutting off visa-free travel to the Marianas for hundreds of thousands of visitors from China in order to prevent a few hundred birth tourists makes no sense from a business point of view.”

The good news is that the visa waiver is a regulatory policy, not a law so that it can be changed by the President Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security.

Roughly 550 foreigners’ babies were born in Saipan in 2016, the paper reported. But President Donald Trump’s officials are cracking down in the island, which as captured from Imperial Japan in 1944.

In June, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Districts of Guam & the Northern Mariana Islands saw one Chinese-born person sentenced to jail for six months:

SHAWN N. ANDERSON, Acting United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, announced that defendant RICHARD PENG aka PAI PENG, a citizen of the United States and Taiwan, was sentenced on June 12, 2017, in District Court, to six months imprisonment. The Court also ordered a one-year term of supervised release following PENG’S release, and a fine of $2,000.00, in addition to the payment of a mandatory $100 assessment fee.

On August 2, 2016, PENG was charged by Information with Harboring an Illegal Alien, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(3). On August 3, 2016, PENG waived indictment by the grand jury, and entered a guilty plea to the charge. From November 2014 until February 2015, PENG housed a Chinese birth-tourist after she had overstayed her conditional parole, with the intention of avoiding her detection by immigration authorities.

Acting United States Attorney Anderson stated, “On April 11, 2017, Attorney General Sessions announced that DOJ will place a high priority on establishing lawfulness in our immigration system. The District of the Northern Mariana Islands will see an increase in federal law enforcement efforts to implement this important policy change. As this case demonstrates, the Department is committed to holding persons accountable for enticing, encouraging and abetting aliens who unlawfully enter or remain in the United States.”

But a likely regulatory change for Saipan won’t block the larger problem of birth tourism. In 2012, roughly 10,000 Chinese babies were born in the United States according to the Wall Street Journal, precipitating a large-scale raid by immigration officials in 2015 in California.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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