Foreign tourists can fly to Saipan, a part of the United States, visa-free, for up to 45 days because of a special exemption. It is perfectly legal to enter the U.S. late in pregnancy and deliver a baby. That baby is instantly a U.S. Citizen who, at age 21 can bring his parents into the U.S.  How is this possible and why would Americans allow that? Well, that is a story of the politics of exception and unintended consequences.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of U.S. births to non-resident mothers rose 53 percent between 2000 and 2006. In the same period, total births only rose by 5 percent.The State Department has no regulations banning pregnant foreigners from entering the United States. Customs and Border Protection officers may deny entry to pregnant women if they believe there is fraud or intent to exploit free medical care.

The United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) consists of Saipan and 14 other islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The island of Guam is a separate U.S. territory. After Spanish, German and Japanese colonization, the United States arrived at the end of  World War II. The Northern Marianas were a U.N. Trust Territory and later voted to join the U.S.  as a commonwealth. They have a single non-voting representative in the House of Representatives and no representation in the U.S. Senate.

So, the Northern Marianas are part of the U.S. and everyone born there is a U.S. citizen. Why is there no visa requirement like the rest of the country? In 2009, the Marianas pressed for and received a visa waiver to support Saipan’s casinos and gambling parlors.