December 3, 2013
The complaint states that the "CBP policy or practice specifically targets and/or disproportionately effects Chinese females of child-bearing age and is not applied or enforced against other males or females of other ethnicities or nationalities."
For months U.S. Delegate Gregoiro (Kilili) Sablan and CNMI Governor Eloy Inos have protested the fact that Chinese tourists use the CNMI as a destination to give birth so that their babies will be U.S. citizens. The CNMI birth tourist industry has been documented on this site (see links to previous posts below) and by international news outlets for years.
Recently, USA Today covered CNMI's birth tourism issues. From the article:
Eloy Inos, the islands' governor, told the Saipan Tribune that immigration agents had sent home about 20 "birth tourists" in the past three to four months because of "documentation problems."
And last month, a pregnant tourist who had arrived on a charter flight from Shanghai late one evening was sent back home early the next morning. Fenny He, the leader of the tour involved, told the Tribune she advised the woman not to go but "she refused to listen."The article continues to reveal information about the tour companies and others who profit from the industry:
The operator of one Saipan guesthouse told Radio Free Asia that she hosted 50 Chinese mothers last year, charging them $11,000 for accommodations, travel, translation help and some medical care, though most also incurred around $10,000 in other medical bills.
Most of those flights are organized by Century Tours, a company owned by Hong Kong's Tan family, who previously pioneered the islands' garment business and own several Saipan hotels.
Inos and the islands' non-voting congressman in Washington have appealed to the Department of Homeland Security to deny entry to birth tourists. In response, U.S. immigration has been passing the word directly Chinese travel companies to discourage maternity traffic.Some serious questions have been raised. Should U.S. immigration be involved in telling Chinese travel companies that female tourists should not to go to the U.S. if they are pregnant? What authority does this agency have in deciding to block entry to the U.S. on the basis of pregnancy? Isn't the DHS violating the U.S. Constitution by passing the word to Chinese travel companies to discourage maternity traffic? Are U.S. citizens denied entry to foreign countries if they are pregnant? Are U.S. citizen women denied entry to the CNMI if they are pregnant? It sure seems that the U.S. and CNMI Governments are targeting Chinese women in a discriminatory and illegal manner.
Other articles, such as one in Islands Business, state that birth tourism to the CNMI is on the upswing since Chinese and Russian visas waivers were initiated to attract tourists.
A November 12, 2013 news release on Delegate Sablan's website also
directly discusses how the governor and delegate are working with "Asiana Airlines, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Chinese government to further minimize—if not totally eliminate—the so-called “birth tourism” here."
The press release noted that the CNMI wants Chinese tourists and wants to maintain the Chinese visa waiver system.
But can the CNMI Government have it both ways? Can they have an aggressive and dangerous campaign to block foreign pregnant tourists from visiting the CNMI and roll out the welcome mat for others? That is extremely unlikely.
The CNMI Government has clearly launched an all-out attack on pregnant Chinese female tourists of child bearing age with the apparent blessing and help of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
A September 2013 Saipan Tribune article stated that in recent months twenty pregnant Chinese tourists were denied entry to the CNMI because they had "documentation problems." Really? Is the Chinese visa waiver program not working? How do foreigners board planes if they do not have the correct documentation or papers? Are pregnant Chinese tourists or Chinese tourists who are suspected that they might be pregnant the only ones with "documentation problems"? How many other tourists have had documentation problems –male tourists, elderly tourist, child tourists, tourists from other foreign countries? What specifically were these so-called problems that seem to be isolated to Chinese female tourists?
It is understandable that the CNMI Government does not want to carry the costs of foreign women who give birth in the Commonwealth Health Center (CHC) and then fail to pay their bills. But how many Chinese tourists actually gave birth at the CHC and then failed to pay their bills? Are foreigners the only ones who do not pay their bills at the CHC? How many CNMI residents gave birth at the CHC and then failed to pay their bills? Articles about the CNMI birth tourism reveal that their agents charge the pregnant women tens of thousands to cover hospital expenses. Is this even a real problem?
There are no pregnancy-related questions on the U.S. Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver application. There is no warning to Chinese tourists that they could be detained and/or deported if they are females of child bearing age and suspected of being pregnant. It is in no way acceptable for the CNMI or U.S. Governments to screen foreign tourists who arrive on U.S. soil to determine if they are pregnant and then refuse entry to them or force them to return to China, if they are pregnant or are suspected of being pregnant.
Welcome to America (NOT!)
In October 2013 Yu Min Zhao, a 32-year-old school teacher travelled from China to Saipan for a one-week vacation with her husband. The complaint alleges that U.S. CBP agents harassed her repeatedly, accusing her of being pregnant. She was denied entry to the CNMI even though her husband was allowed to enter.
She was locked up in a detention room for 22 hours and was denied access to her husband and an attorney. During her confinement she was verbally abused and assaulted by U.S. CBP agents. According to the complaint, U.S. CBP agent Dennis Jacobs and another unknown agent told her she "had no rights".
The U.S. constantly attacks China for human rights offenses and then a U.S. agent tells an innocent Chinese woman that she has no rights? Seriously?
Agents continually threatened the woman in an attempt to coerce her to sign a voluntary release form to allow her to return to China despite the fact that she had a valid visa and was allowed to board the plane in China.
Even more horrific is the fact that the U.S. CPB agents subjected her to numerous body searches. After the plaintiff screamed for help agents removed her clothing and took her possessions.
The complaint states:
1. This is a civil rights action brought to redress blatant and rampant racial and gender discrimination perpetrated against a 32 year old Chinese school teacher (plaintiff YU MIN ZHAO) by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer ("CBP") Dennis Jacobs and seven other as yet unidentified CBP officers (collectively the "CBP defendants") during an immigration inspection at the Saipan International Airport.
2. The CBP defendants violated plaintiff YU MIN ZHAO's constitutional right of equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and made applicable to the federal government by the Due Process component of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as plaintiff's constitutional right of being free from the use of excessive force under the Fourth Amendment by:
(A) Engaging in unlawful racial and gender profiling by accusing plaintiff YU MIN ZHAO of being pregnant simply because she was Chinese and a female of child bearing age;
(B) Subjecting plaintiff YU MIN ZHAO to special scrutiny, harassment, verbal abuse and physical abuse because defendants believed her to be pregnant merely because she was Chinese and a female of child-bearing age;
(C) Placing plaintiff in solitary detention for 22 hours without providing her any food and limiting her to one cup of water during that time as well as disallowing her any communication to the outside world including her own husband who was anxiously waiting for her outside the Saipan International Airport without knowing why she was being detained or what was going on merely because plaintiff was Chinese and a female of child-bearing age;
(D) Physically harassing, intimidating and abusing the plaintiff by using unnecessary force and overwhelming numbers in deploying 7-8 CBP officers to "gang" hand-cuff plaintiffs hands behind her back while she was in detention despite the fact plaintiff is 5'2 and 120 pounds and did not otherwise post a threat to the security of any CBP officer or resist;
(E) Subjecting plaintiff to arbitrary and repeated body searches during her 22-hour detention as retaliation for her numerous refusals to voluntarily agree to return to China on the next available flight;
(F) Subjecting plaintiff to psychological intimidation by removing her shoes, necklace, watch and other articles of clothing or personal items from her body as retaliation for her terrified screams for help during her 22 hour detention;
(G) Repeatedly denying plaintiff the right to counsel despite the fact she was being held in custody, subject to extended interrogation and placed in handcuffs;
(H) Coercing plaintiff into signing forms that were in English and never translated or explained to her by an interpreter; and
(I) Un-lawfully denying plaintiff admission to the Saipan under the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program on account of her race and gender: namely the fact she was Chinese and suspected of being pregnant.As a U.S. citizen I am disgusted and ashamed that a tourist to our country was violated in this most inhumane and sick way by U.S. officials.
If this woman actually was pregnant then not just her, but also her child would have been in grave danger from the assault. The complaint further alleges these disgusting human, civil and constitution rights violations:
43. Defendant CBP Officer JOHN DOE #2 then tried to trick and/or coerce plaintiff into signing an English language document that stated she "voluntarily consented" to returning to China by refusing to explain what the document meant or providing a Chinese translation of the same.
44. Instead, defendant CBP Officer JOHN DOE #2 warned her that she would have a permanent record that would prevent her from returning to the U.S. ever again if she did not sign.
45. Defendant CBP Officer JOHN DOE #2 also threatened to have plaintiff's husband Jian Li arrested and deported if she continued to refuse to sign even though her husband had already been granted admission by CBP for ten days.
46. Additionally, defendant CBP Officer JOHN DOE #2 told plaintiff that her refusal to sign the "voluntary'' consent form was futile anyway because she would be forced to leave either way.
47. Plaintiff YU MIN ZHAO refused to sign the form because she did not know what it said and otherwise could not understand why she was not being allowed entry to Saipan even though her husband travelling with her with exactly the same immigration background and visa history had been granted entry.
48. In an effort to break plaintiffs will, defendants CBP Officers JOHN DOES 1-5 and JANE DOES 1-2 subjected plaintiff to numerous unnecessary body searches throughout her twentytwo hour detention as a form of harassment and intimidation.
49. Out of frustration at her helplessness, plaintiff YU MIN ZHAO began resorting to screaming for help whenever the door to her detention room was opened as she was bewildered, terrified and overwhelmed by what was happening.
50. In retaliation for her screams, defendants CBP Officers JOHN DOES 1-5 and JANE DOES 1-2 came into plaintiff YU MIN ZHAO's detention room and removed articles of clothing from her body as well as personal items as punishment for her perceived "lack of co-operation".
51. At one point, defendants CBP Officers JOHN DOES 1-5 and JANE DOES 1-2 gang tackled plaintiff in her cell and forcibly handcuffed her hands behind her back by shoving her face first against a wall and violently twisting her hands behind her back merely because she refused to get fingerprinted as a form of protest of the abuse she was suffering.
52. Specifically, three CBP Officers stormed into plaintiff's detention cell and rushed at plaintiff while she stood in a passive position with her back near the wall. One CBP Officer spun plaintiff around, kicked apart her legs and slammed plaintiffs face against the wall causing her pain from both the force of the impact and the friction of the wall to her face. A second CBP Officer then pushed plaintiff's shoulders forward so that her face remained press to the wall while another CBP Officer painfully twisted plaintiffs hands behind her back and applied handcuffs.
53. While this was happening, another 3 to 4 CBP Officer stood inside the doorway of plaintiffs detention cell watching in an unnecessary show of force and intimidation.
54. Plaintiff YU MIN ZHAO was then left alone crying in her cell for about an hour with her hands painfully handcuffed behind her back without being given any medical attention or explanation as to why this was happening to her.
55. Eventually, plaintiff YU MIN ZHAO signed the English language document 24 presented to her even though it was never explained or translated into Chinese after approximately 25 twenty-two hours of isolation, harassment, intimidation, threats and abuse.
56. At that juncture, plaintiffs spirit and will had been broken by the fact she had gone more than a day without sleep or food.
57. To date, Plaintiff YU MIN ZHAO still does not know what form she signed said as it was never translated to her in Chinese and she was never given a copy therein.The CNMI wants to maintain a Chinese visa waiver program, but it has a policy that violates the rights of any woman who is suspected of being pregnant. This makes no sense! Is there any other U.S. airport where this kind of disgusting near-torturous policy is enforced?
Every foreign woman considering traveling to the CNMI, needs to be warned of the abusive, inhumane and unconstitutional treatment that is inflicted upon innocent women of child bearing years by U.S. customs officials. I hope that Yu Min Zhao and other victims of this horrific policy are contacting government officials and the press so that potential tourists are warned.
If the facts are found to be true (and there is no reason to suspect that they are not) then every CNMI and U.S. agent and official that was involved should be terminated. The officials involved in this incident should be suspended immediately until a thorough investigation is conducted.
The complaint is beyond horrific. This policy and the practice of intimidating, assaulting, detaining, humiliating, handcuffing, and verbally abusing female tourists could severely strain relations between the United States and China. This case alone could create an international scandal, especially since the incident clearly involves human rights abuses against an innocent Chinese national by U.S. Government officials. This incident could shut down the Guam-CNMI Chinese visa waiver program.
What do Governor Inos and Delegate Sablan have to say about this lawsuit?
Read the lawsuit:
Posts on baby tourism:
Made in the USA: Saipan's Backdoor to United States
Fitial Peddles His Xenophobic BS in Washington DC
Is Governor Fitial Joking?