January 2, 2009

Waitaminnit, That Baby Born On The Northwest Flight Is NOT Canadian

OK, so on New Years Eve, an 8.5 mos pregnant Ugandan woman--and US resident--was on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Boston. By the time flight attendants called for any doctors traveling onboard to help with a medical emergency, she was in advanced labor, and ended up giving birth to a healthy girl, Sasha, like ten minutes later. The plane landed 90 minutes later in Boston, and mom and baby were taken to Mass General for observation. So far so good.

But here's the screwy part of the story: "Customs officials said that Sasha was deemed a Canadian citizen, because she was born over Canadian airspace."

Either the Boston Globe is misreporting, or those customs officials are like five kinds of wrong all at once; that kid is as American as a slice of Boston cream pie. There may be debate over what goes on her birth certificate for location--the extended discussion of this topic at Civil Aviation Forum includes precious few official citations, but dozens of pilot & crew anecdotes suggesting that the kid's official place of birth might be either the latitude and longitude, or "International Airspace"--but the kid will almost certainly get a birth certificate issued in Boston.

Most importantly, the kid's born on an American plane registered to an carrier, and landing in America, a country which grants citizenship to babies born on its soil or under its flag.

If the Customs agents at Logan needed to fill out some paperwork to process the kid into the country, and so decided to label her "Canadian," based on some unofficial account of what airspace the kid was supposedly born in, that's fine. But it'll have nothing to do with her citizenship.

And unless there's a secret clause in NAFTA where Canada unknowingly signed away its sovereignty, random US Customs agents don't yet have the authority to declare someone a Canadian citizen.

Baby born en route to Logan [boston.com via dt reader sara]
What Nationality Are You If Born Aloft? [airliners.net]

Update: hmm, the legal minds at opinio juris have taken up the case, and it's apparently not so clear airline registry is so determinative of citizenship. No one's mentioned Canada's take on the situation, though, or the US's authority to declare someone a Canadian citizen. [via bldgblog, where geoff wants to declare Sasha the first citizen of Cloud City. Sasha Calrissian, I guess.]



BLDGBLOG got in on the action too

and in related news...a Polish woman gave birth in the London tube last month...


if only she'd given birth in the Chunnel.

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