Invasion of the citizenship snatchers

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CRISPIN R. ARANDA

IN June 2016, fearful that Canada has become a target for birth tourism, Ms. Kerry Starchuk filed an online petition seeking to ban the practice of giving birth in Canada with the intent of obtaining automatic citizenship to babies born in the country.

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Starchuk’s petition, directed mainly at Chinese immigrants, was endorsed by a Conservative member of parliament representing Richmond, British Columbia.

Richmond—officially termed “Golden Village”— hosts not only many Chinese-oriented malls, but also is home to the dominant Asian community in the province. In 2011, the City of Richmond reported that Chinese immigrants comprised 47 percent of the city’s population.

Starchuk shared her own experience and sighting of “birthing houses” and pregnant women walking around her neighborhood.

“I don’t have problem with a baby,” Starchuk was quoted by Vancouver Sun, “but I have a problem with long-term consequences.”

Could a local or provincial petition override federal law?

Babies born in Canada and the United States—whether just inches across the border or in a hospital or any maternity ward —obtain the citizenship of the country of birth regardless of the mother’s immigration status.

Even if the mother is visibly pregnant (or even in her last trimester) a Canadian border patrol officer cannot refuse to admit her except for some other visa or immigration violations discovered during the inspection process at a port of entry.

Citizenship is a constitutional right in the US and Canada. In addition, Canada’s Citizenship Act grants automatic citizenship to a baby regardless of the immigration status of the mother except for accredited diplomats.

The Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website confirms this right. “Giving birth in Canada does not represent a violation of any terms or conditions which may be applied to a temporary resident. Thus, there is no provision in IRPA to refuse a TRV solely on the basis of the intent of the applicant to give birth in Canada.”

A pregnant visa applicant issued a valid visa, for example, at the Canadian Embassy in Makati, may not be refused entry unless a further assessment (during the admission process) reveals the visa holder does not meet the primary requirements for the issuance of a temporary resident visa (TRV) such as:

Insufficient funds?

Failure to establish that he or she will leave Canada at the end of the period of authorized stay?

Was intention to give birth concealed during the application process?

Admissibility is a continuing criterion – from the time an individual applies for the TRV until the time he or she presents the visa to the border officer at the port of entry.

But pregnancy “would not normally present concerns regarding medical inadmissibility.”

Officers at the border are instructed to focus instead on the financial resources available to the applicant; that giving birth will not require excessive social or health services during the stay in Canada.

Potential birth mothers
Those already in Canada on a temporary resident status from 2009 to 2015—tourists, temporary workers with permits or international students comprising 2,174,958 females from a total of 5,235,752—are also potential birth mothers. While this group may not avail of publicly funded medical and healthcare benefits, it is believed that birth tourists look more at the long-term benefits for the child, from programs usually available only to citizens, and sponsorship of the parent upon turning 18 years old.

Birth tourism has prompted the Canadian Medical Protective Association to caution doctors about providing medical services to those “who are coming to Canada to have babies in order to acquire Canadian citizenship for their newborns.”

Canada is aware that birth tourism exists but not encouraged. And, given the trend of nationalism or isolationism that is spreading across Europe and the US, the prospects of Canada’s putting its foot down on the practice may not be long in coming.

In a poll conducted between August 11 to 31, 2016, less Canadians expressed support for increased immigration, particularly if the numbers of immigrants admitted yearly go over 200,000 over the next five years.

Canada with 9.98 million square kilometers is the world’s second-largest country by total area and the fourth-largest country by land area. With approximately 35 million population in 2016, Canada still has a lot of room – literally and physically – for warm bodies.

But immigrants must be ready to go outside the metropolitan areas like Vancouver in British Columbia or Toronto, Ontario.

In fact, Atlantic Canada—New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island—drafted a common goal to attract immigrants through the Atlantic Immigration Pilot intending to accept up to 2,000 applications for 2017. This is in addition to each province’s allocation pursuant to its agreement with the Federal government.

Over the next 40 years, climatologists and economists agree that global warming might benefit Canada. Between 1906 and 1982, the area of ice shelves reportedly fell 90 percent. If the thawing continues —or even accelerates—the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage could open to commercial traffic, giving Panama Canal stiff competition.

A competitive and progressive Canada would be friendlier to immigrants, including expectant mothers.

This is one pregnant probability that Canada would welcome.

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