SAIPAN – By a vote of 15-1, the House of Representatives adopted House Joint Resolution 21-4, expressing the CNMI's intent to cooperate with the U.S. government in modifying the Covenant to end "birth tourism" in the commonwealth.
Rep. Sheila Babauta was the only one who voted no. She recommended that the resolution be referred to a committee for further study.
Babauta said she did not support H.J.R. 21-4 because she doesn't believe "we've explored other ways to address the negative impact of birth tourism on the CNMI."
She added, "Birth tourism is not illegal, but it has heavily influenced the development of our community. I wanted this resolution sent back to committee to further study the impact of birth tourism, the topic of U.S. citizenship, our unique relationship with the federal government, and the authorities granted to us by the Covenant. This right is granted to all by the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution – the supreme law of the land. Do we have the authority to grant or deny U.S. citizenship? Is this the smartest way to address the issue? What other options do we have? How will this impact our relationship with the U.S.?"
She said she was told that the resolution was the result of the CNMI's most recent 902 talks with the White House.
"However, we were not provided official documentation of those claims," she said. "The resolution is a statement of intent to create policy in this direction and that is a bold statement to make. I was not comfortable supporting a statement of this magnitude without proper research and documentation."
Authored by Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, the joint resolution expresses the CNMI's willingness to "provide mutual consent to end Section 303 of the Covenant's Article 3 to limit birth tourism" in the commonwealth.