A pregnant Taiwanese woman whose labor on a U.S. flight caused a $33,000 diversion may now have to pay the bill and faces accusations that the birth was orchestrated to secure her baby U.S. citizenship.
On Oct. 8, the unnamed woman known only by her surname, Jian, was on a China Airlines flight from Taipei to Los Angeles when, six hours in, she went into labor. A doctor on board tended to the woman, with the flight crew standing in as nurses, and helped the woman deliver a baby girl above the Pacific Ocean, BBC and CBS News reported.
Video of the flight crew cooing over the newborn was posted online and made for a touching story. But, to ensure the health of the baby, the plane had to make an emergency landing in Alaska, a stopover that cost the airline $33,00, though the company insurer is still making calculations.
Back in Taiwan, the woman is being eviscerated by government officials, who question her motivations and have accused her of purposefully hiding her pregnancy so she could board a flight and give birth in U.S. air space.
If she was successful, her daughter would automatically be granted U.S. citizenship.The alleged plan worked — the child was born in U.S. air space and Alaska state officials have already declared the child is eligible to be a citizen, The Associated Press added.
But now, Jian has been deported back to Taiwan — without her baby. She was reportedly denied entry into the country, though no reason was given as to why; but, as an American, her baby was allowed to stay and is now being cared for by a friend.
Officials have not said if or when mother and child will be reunited. A California immigration lawyer, J Craig Fong, said officials may be keeping the child until a doctor clears her.
The controversy in her native country has been stoked by rumors about the woman’s time on the plane. Taiwanese media are reporting that she wanted to give birth in America to give the baby citizenship.
The woman allegedly asked a crew member “Are we in US air space?” repeatedly, however this couldn’t be confirmed. Others question how she was able to board the flight at all since she was so late in her pregnancy; the airline prohibits women more than 32 weeks pregnant to board without a doctor’s note. Jian reportedly did not have a note, but was allowed to board because she lied to the crew.
Without proof, Taiween’s parliamentary leaders are accusing her of purposefully boarding the plane to give birth in American air space to secure citizenship for her child. The government, which is a shareholder in China Airlines, wants Jian to pay for the plane’s emergency landing.
“This is a selfish act,” ruling party legislator Luo Shu-lei shouted during a parliamentary session. “It was clearly an act carried out to give the child U.S. citizenship. She affected the travel of other passengers. Is there no punishment?”
Jian’s alleged actions aren’t exactly rare. There is something of a “cottage industry” in China, the AP reported, set up to get pregnant women from mainland China to the U.S. to give birth and obtain automatic citizenship, since it’s granted to newborns born in American air space or land
Birth tourism in Taiwan is not quite as attractive, since the country’s economy is strong and it has an excellent public welfare system, but the country’s upper middle class like to obtain “flexible citizenship” with multiple passports to “maximize economic opportunities” for their kids.
Another motivator for Taiwanese moms to give birth on planes headed to the U.S. is the fear that the country will reunify with China. A blogger in Taiwan named Haidizizi came to this country to have her baby for this very reason.
“It’s not because I don’t love Taiwan, but I don’t want my little darling to have to switch to a red Chinese passport in the future!”
[Photo via YouTube Screengrab]