New American Born to Haitian on U.S. Cutter
A Haitian refugee who gave birth aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cutter after being evacuated from a rickety sailboat might be able to remain in the United States, and her child is a U.S. citizen regardless, officials said.
The cutter Dauntless intercepted the dilapidated vessel with 89 Haitians aboard in the Bahamas en route to Florida Saturday afternoon, Lt. Kevin Quigley said.
Everyone was transferred to the cutter and the unseaworthy boat was sunk, he said.
Hours later, Sate Teresias, 35, gave birth to a 7-pound girl she named Wislene. Both were flown to the Coast Guard station at Opa-Locka on Sunday.
Few Valid Claims
Few Haitian emigrants are able to make what immigration officials consider valid claims for entry into the United States. But it was the first time officials could recall an emigrant giving birth aboard a cutter blocking would-be immigrants from landing on U.S. shores.
“She’s requested to come to the United States so we’re going to bring her in,” Quigley said. “Our plan would not be to make any attempt to break up the family.”
The newborn’s claim for citizenship is undisputed, but the mother’s immigration status remains in limbo, immigration officials said.
“The child is a United States citizen,” said Richard Smith, deputy district director for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. However, Teresias would not have a claim for U.S. citizenship just because she gave birth to a U.S. citizen, he said.
“If she did not have any legal basis for coming here . . . she would be subject to deportation,” said Perry Rivkind, INS district director. If Teresias’ claim is economic, she likely would be deported, and “any mother, I think 99% of mothers, would want to take their children back with them,” he said.