The birth of Baby Kevin on PAL flight 104
“Is there a doctor or a nurse on board?” was the announcement made on the plane’s public address system while we were on board PR104 flight from Manila to San Francisco.
In my mind, I knew for sure that there would be a nurse. Nurses represent many of the immigrants to the United States so there is always a strong probability that there is more than one nurse on board a Manila out-bound flight.
Fifteen minutes later the purser announced that a “baby boy” had just been born. There was clapping and cheers from the passengers welcoming Baby Kevin as the newest passenger on board the aircraft.
As the passengers disembarked from the plane, paramedics were present to attend to mother and baby. They were taken to the Mills Peninsula Hospital at Burlingame, California. I discovered later the identity of the mother, Aida Alamillo, who was entering the US for the first time with her other minor children. She is a holder of a permanent resident visa (or green card), being the beneficiary of her mother’s petition.
At my first opportunity to speak with Aida, I immediately asked her why she took the risk boarding the airplane knowing that she was due to give birth soon. She informed me that her expected date of delivery was still more than a week later. Her doctor certified that it was fine for her to travel to San Francisco. According to Aida, she presented this medical certificate to PAL and they allowed her to board.
Several speculations ensued on the actual “citizenship” of the child after learning of his birth in the air.
There are those who say that the place of registration of the plane determines the citizenship of the child. Following this logic a child born inside a Philippine Airlines plane is a Filipino citizen and a child born on Korean or China Airlines are Korean or Chinese citizens. This is clearly absurd.
Others would say that since the plane is en route to the United States, the child is a US citizen.
Without knowing the nationality of the parent, there are those who speculate that the child is a US citizen if either the father or the mother is a US citizen.
What’s his citizenship?
From a legal perspective, the child is not a US citizen. The 14th Amendment of the US Constitution ensures citizenship to all persons born in the US. This includes those born on airplanes within or flying over the United States.
Under international law, the limits of a country’s sovereign airspace correspond with the extent of its territorial sea. The outer limit of the territorial sea of the US is 12 nautical miles from the coastline. Airspace above the land territory, internal waters, and territorial sea is considered to be part of the US. Since the child was born mid flight and way beyond the US sovereign airspace, the child is not a US citizen at birth.
In this case the citizenship of the parent will determine the citizenship of the child. Since the mother is a Filipino citizen, a green card holder, the child is still considered a Filipino citizen.
Since the baby was born inside the airplane, he definitely had no “travel documents.” Will the Customs and Border Protection inspectors at the port of entry consider the child as having “entered without inspection”?
The mother is a Filipino citizen and a green card holder. The usual way for a minor child to obtain a green card is to be petitioned as a child or be a derivative beneficiary of a principal applicant. In this case, Aida had two other minor children who were traveling with her. Both minor children are also green card holders as derivative beneficiaries of Aida. These minor children obtained their green card status together with Aida. The question that may be raised is whether the baby’s mother must petition him or can he be considered an automatic green card holder?
Minor children of green card holders who are not derivative beneficiaries should generally be petitioned. However, there are a few exceptions. For children of green card holders who are born abroad, no visa is required for the child as long as the parent is on her initial return to the US and is accompanying the child. This applies within two years of child’s birth.
Kevin having been born to a green card holder mother, outside the US territory is considered to be a child born abroad of a green card parent. His mother is on her initial entry to the US and so the rule applies that no visa is required of Kevin. He can automatically be registered as a green card holder.
The birth of baby Kevin inside the airplane over international waters brought thrill to a boring 12-hour flight to San Francisco. As a passenger of the same flight I was very pleased to be on the same flight and proud to have virtually experienced the arrival of a “blessing in the sky!”
(Tancinco may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 887 71 77 or 721 1963)
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