Immigration Corner | Will my baby be taken away?
Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
I am a young Jamaican female pregnant with my first child. I recently got my US visa and I am planning to visit my sister in the summer. My sister, however, wants me to come when it's closer to the baby's due date, as she thinks it would be better if I give birth in America. I am very much confused as I heard that this is illegal and the authorities will take the baby away from me at the airport. My sister is telling me otherwise.
While it is not illegal for a visitor to have a baby in the US, it will certainly jeopardise your visa if you do not pay for the birth of the child. Thousands of women from all over the world who want their children to be US citizens, and who can afford to pay for the birth of the children, travel to the States to give birth. There are companies which provide a range of services for pregnant women to be housed in the States and cared for before, during and after the birth.
However, if a woman travels to the US and accepts Medicaid for her medical expenses related to the birth of her US-citizen child, she has breached the terms of her US visa.
The US-citizen child is entitled to Medicaid and any other services available because the child is an American. But, the non-immigrant mother, by accepting Medicaid, has become a public charge on the government of the US and that is a violation of her US visa.
If a pregnant woman presents at a US hospital and is in need of services, the hospital will assign a social worker who will access services for that woman to receive medical attention, including giving birth.
Medicaid, a US-government programme,will pay the hospital for the expenses incurred. The woman will not owe the hospital. There is no mechanism for Medicaid to accept reimbursement after they have paid the hospital, unless there was fraud.
You would be able to secure a US passport for your US-citizen child and return home to Jamaica. However, on a future trip, at the renewal of your visa, or the renewal of your US-citizen child's passport at the US embassy in Kingston, the issue of you having a US-citizen child will be raised.
At that time, unless you have proof that you paid for the cost of the birth of the child, you will have an issue.
No one will take your child away from you, unless the child is in danger of being abused, abandoned or neglected, but there are several horror stories of women who have travelled back to the States with their US-citizen child and were denied entry when the Customs and Border Protection officer discovered that the mother accepted Medicaid for the birth of the child.
Many US relatives encourage their family members to come to the US and have their children, but it is a decision that must be made wisely, as you can and, most likely, will lose your US visa.
• 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. firstname.lastname@example.org