Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Determined to have a child in the US

Published:Tuesday | August 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I need some advice for my cousin who is going through a difficult situation. She is pregnant and living in Jamaica. However, her boyfriend is advising her that she should have the baby in Florida or Boston. She has a valid 10-year visitor's visa, and her mother is a United States (US) resident.

I have told her that it would be illegal to do so and she could have her visa revoked. In addition to that, she has no insurance and is under the impression that the delivery and care of the child would be free as the hospital cannot turn her back during an emergency. In her estimation, if necessary, she would pay for the cost of delivery and it will make things OK. Immigration can turn her back at the airport as she wants to travel at eight months. Based on my research, I have informed her of the perils and she is still adamant. Please provide some sound legal advice to guide her. I really don't want my cousin to get in any trouble.

- NB

Dear NB,

A non-immigrant can have a child in the US. It is not illegal to do so. However, if the non-immigrant mother accepts Medicaid to pay her hospital bill, she has violated the terms of her non-immigrant visa in that she has become a public charge upon the government and taxpayers of the US.

A hospital in America will not turn away a person who is in labour and will deliver the baby. The hospital will assign a case worker to the mother and that person will apply for Medicaid for the mother and baby. The hospital wants to ensure that they will be paid their costs in delivering the baby and caring for the mother, and Medicaid will pay those costs. The baby is/will be a US citizen and is entitled to all the benefits that come with that citizenship.

A mother who accepts Medicaid while on a visitor's visa has jeopardised her visa and can be denied the renewal of her visa, denied entry on a future visit with her US citizen child or have her visa cancelled when applying to renew her US citizen child's passport at the US embassy in Jamaica.

If your cousin will pay for the birth of the child and can prove this in the future, her US visa should not be jeopardised. Keep in mind, however, that a US visa belongs to the US government and can be cancelled or denied renewal at the discretion of the US government. If she has made the necessary plans with a doctor in the US to be her obstetrician and has prepaid for the delivery or some of the costs, she should be OK in gaining entry into the US. Some immigration officers will deny entry to pregnant mothers in their last trimester of pregnancy because they know that many women come to the States to give birth and have a US citizen child at the expense of the US taxpayers.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States, and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator, and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida; and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Justice.