Majority Of Guam’s Maternity Tourism Cases Involve Koreans

Director public services: some longer-term planning wherby 'mothers coming from Korea give birth here and obtain a Social Security number and a passport for their child — and then return to Korea'

 By Manny Cruz

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, July 03, 2017) – The island’s public hospital delivers a steady number of non-resident newborns, recently collected data shows. A majority of the babies are born to South Korean visitors.

The pejorative term “anchor baby” has been used to describe the phenomenon, which involves pregnant mothers in their last trimester traveling to a desired destination to deliver their babies, who at birth become eligible for that country’s citizenship.

Last fiscal year, Guam Memorial Hospital delivered 116 babies to non-U.S. mothers, 77 of whom were from South Korea.

So far in fiscal 2017, the number of infants born to non-U.S. mothers is 77, of whom 54 were born to travelers from Korea.

The numbers generally correlate to the growing number of Korean tourist arrivals, but the number of births involving Japanese nationals is much, much lower. For instance, last fiscal year there was only one delivery by a Japanese national; that number is again just one so far this year.

James Gillan, director of the Department of Public Health and Social Services, said that where the expecting mothers come from generally determines their purpose for giving birth in Guam, and what they will do after.

“I think typically what you’ll find is that mothers coming from Korea give birth here and obtain a Social Security number and a passport for their child — and then return to Korea,” Gillan said. “They’re thinking that 20 or 30 years later, their child can return to the U.S. and go to school, or what have you.

“With mothers from FAS (Freely Associated States), the desire is that their child will qualify for welfare programs and other benefits that they don’t have access to.”

According to the hospital’s figures, only seven babies were born to FAS citizens.

Gillan added that his primary concern was the safety of travelling mothers at such late stages in their pregnancies.

Hospital Chief Executive PeterJohn Camacho said GMH’s mandate to serve everyone extends to tourists and other non-resident mothers as well as Guam residents.

“We don’t ask whether they’re a tourist or not. Our everyday mission is: If you’re here, we’ll take care of you,” Camacho said.

He said the hospital’s administration hasn’t done extensive research regarding the cost of delivering these babies.

The phenomenon has been described as “birth tourism,” and is also an issue on the mainland U.S. and in the CNMI.

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