Photo: Wall Street Journal retrieved

Pregnant Venezuelan women migrate to Colombia in search of food, medicine, and a dignified life for them and their babies. There are many Venezuelan women who could only have access to diapers, milk, proper nutrition and prenatal control in Colombia. Only in Colombia would they be able to give birth without the fear of dying in the attempt. The problem, however, is that Colombian legislation is clear and these children cannot have Colombian nationality and enjoy the rights inherent to that citizenship. The Colombian government is being proactive finding mechanisms to at least give an identity to these kids and reduce their vulnerability by staying in immigration limbo. However, there’s the risk we may be having “an invisible generation” of Venezuelans who do not legally exist in either country.

To contextualize, there are two traditional systems of transmission of citizenship at birth. The first, the jus solis, used as criteria for granting citizenship to those who have been born in the country. According to the second, the jus sanguinis, the nationality is obtained by a person when he or she is a descendant of a citizen of a particular country. Because of this last concept, children of foreigners in a country with the first system in their legislation (the jus solis) have no right to that country’s citizenship.

There are many Venezuelan women who could only have access to diapers, milk, proper nutrition and prenatal control in Colombia.

A few weeks ago I read a report by El País on the odyssey Venezuelan women have to go through to give birth in Brazil given the precariousness of health services and the alarming rates of maternal infant mortalities in Venezuela. According to the report, the annual average of births in the border state of Roraima went from 8,000 to 12,000 in 2017, an increase of almost 50%, mostly of Venezuelan babies. Fortunately, these babies will have the opportunity to enjoy the Brazilian nationality while they wait to obtain, at some point, their Venezuelan one. Having access to a nationality is key to enjoying other rights, and Venezuelan babies, like most Venezuelans, don’t have easy access to birth certificates or passports, especially when they’re born overseas.

The Venezuelan mothers who come to Brazil have the certainty that their babies will have access to Brazilian citizenship, thus all rights granted to a Brazilian citizen. This is because the Brazilian legislation goes by the jus solis to grant nationality so that any baby born in Brazilian territory is automatically a Brazilian citizen.

However, there’s another unforeseen effect of the recent exodus of Venezuelans to other countries, and particularly to Colombia. In the case of babies born from Venezuelan mothers in Colombia, the Colombian Political Constitution establishes in its article 96 that Colombians nationals by birth only include those babies born of Colombian citizens (by birth or naturalized), or those born of foreign parents but who have residency in Colombia at the moment of the birth.

The Colombian Political Constitution establishes that Colombians nationals by birth only include those babies born of Colombian citizens. 

Many of the Venezuelan mothers giving birth in Colombia do not meet these requirements and also suffer, as do many Venezuelans who need a passport, the impediments and difficulties to process the documentation and the registration of their babies in the Venezuelan consulates in Colombia.

What happens then?

When these children are born, many face a situation of statelessness, albeit temporary, basically understood as the condition of a person who lacks a national identity, that is, children who do not enjoy recognition as a citizen of any specific nation, which automatically conditions their possibilities of enjoying different rights.

The immigration limbo of many children of Venezuelan mothers in Colombia must be cause of concern. The UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) deals with this agenda. UNHCR estimates that there are some 10 million stateless persons worldwide and the goal agreed by the countries of the Americas that approved the Brazilian Plan of Action in 2014 is to eradicate statelessness in the region over a period of ten years. The current situation of Venezuelan babies could impede the achievement of this regional goal. Fortunately, other countries with important numbers of Venezuelans such as Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina operate with the two aforementioned systems to grant nationality.

Solutions for babies born to Venezuelan mothers in Colombia have to continue to be explored.

In the meantime, solutions for babies born to Venezuelan mothers in Colombia have to continue to be explored. We can find some in two instruments: the Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons of 1954, which focuses on the protection of these persons, and the Convention for the Prevention and Reduction of the Cases of Stateless Persons of 1961, the leading international instrument that sets rules for the conferral and non-withdrawal of citizenship to prevent statelessness.

The case of these children confirms, once again, the unfortunate effects of the exodus of Venezuelans, as a result of the political, social, economic and humanitarian crises in Venezuela. And it’s also another sign that what’s happening in Venezuela has ceased to be a national crisis and has become a regional one whose consequences we’re only now starting to see.


** Points of view are personal. They do not represent the position of the OAS.

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  1. How come the author fails to mention that the vast majority of countries in the world don’t recognize anchor babies? That the child retains the nationality of the parent(s)?

    This is a good journalism lesson, boys and girls. And how powerful one’s choice of words can be and what a powerful tool language is:

    This article was framed and crafted to somehow present a unique and extraordinary situation that Venezuelan babies born in Colombia face. When in fact, it’s the same all over the world.

    Of course, the real story here is somehow legitimizing adjustment of status for the parents as well. The babies are just a way to further that position.

    Mind you:

    I have a VZ niece giving birth in Miami in March. She and her husband flew here with no intention of returning, applied for asylum status, and who the hell knows how they can legitimately prove it?

    I don’t think they understand that their American born daughter’s legal status confers no legal status on them.

    A mess that Trump is trying to fix by disallowing anchor baby status.

    • As I understand it, the child born in Miami will be an american citizen, so when he is at least 18 years old and in a economic situation to sponsor his parents then he can do so. As for other members of his family like grown siblings and so forth the queue is years long.

      • So how does the kid reach 18 with no parents to raise her?

        Also, petitioning for a parent goes at the BOTTOM of the waiting list. Spouses, then children, come next.

        The law doesn’t allow for a newborn baby to protect his/her parents’ illegal status for those 18 years anyway.

        But bleeding heart liberals will say that anyone who reaches U.S. territory and drops a baby is eligible for protection.

        • Sorry Ira. Spouses, children and parents of the sponsor all have “numbers” or “slots” if you will, with no waiting period. Siblings go to the back of the line and may need to wait 10 years.

          Just got the suegra’s papers in last month, and we’re told it should a total of 6 months til her residency is ready.

          • It’s still a waiting period though, until your number comes up. And there’s still an annual maximum number accepted from each country.

            As far as I know, only spouses of American CITIZENS don’t have numbers. They’re immediate and above and beyond the maximum allowed by the State Dept. for the year.

            This is how I remember it in 1988, and I’m talking about regular immgration here, not asylum.

            As far as citizenship by birthright, what we call anchor babies:

            That baby can’t sponsor their parents until they reach adulthood anyway.

  2. A little OT but I would think there might be some female readers out there that would have meaningful comments on a story like this.

    Come to think of it, why are there so pitifully few women who comment on ANY CC article? Are you all delicate flowers, who feel bullied and “uncomfortable” amongst us rough-and-tumble macho types?

      • From Wikipedia

        “The policy stems from the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, stating “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside,” and was meant to override the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision that denied African Americans citizenship.[5] The application of birthright citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants remains controversial among right-wing politicians.[6] The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that approximately 7.5% of all births in the U.S. (about 300,000 births per year) are to unauthorized immigrants.[7] The Pew Hispanic Center also estimates that there are 4.5 million children who were born to unauthorized immigrants that received citizenship via birth in the United States; while the Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are 4.1 million children. Both estimates exclude anyone eighteen and older who might have benefited.[7][8]”

  3. My daughter is almost 7 years old. My wife is Venezuelan so a few years ago we went to renew her passport at the consulate. We took all and every document available to register my daughter as a Venezuelan citizen but the consulate demurred to do so. Given that we were mostly interested in getting my wife’s passport we did not push the point. She is a US citizen both by birth and by blood.

    Funny thing is I am also a Peruvian citizen too, by blood, and by soil, so I went to the Peruvian consulate and ‘cero peo’ -she is Peruvian.

    So as you see, getting help from Chavistas consulates is slim.

        • Why would you even bother trying to get her VZ citizenship/passport now?

          If things ever turn around there, it should be a cinch if those are the rules. regardless of her age.

          My wife’s VZ passport is going in the toilet in a few months when she gets her U.S. citizenship. (It’s expired anyway.)

          • If she has to go into Venezuela for an eventuality, she MAY be hassled by the authorities on her way out.

            As for my daughter’s birthright to be Venezuelan, I don’t lose sleep about it, I was just being diligent, like my mom who once she could get up after my birth walked into the US embassy and made me an American citizen.

    • Are you sure you want to register your daughter as a Venezuelan citizen? If you are ever in Venezuela with your daughter and an evacuation is needed, the US government will not be able to do so. If she enters Venezuela with a Venezuelan passport she will be stuck there.

    • and everyone born in Venezuela and accidentally stopping by without the infamous passport could use up a full year to get out. Of course not, you pay between USD5000 and 10000, to the band of criminals are you’re done.

  4. This problem doesn’t only affect Venezuelans in Colombia.

    The same thing happens to Haitians living in DR. It’s a mess.

    In 2013 the Dominican Suprem Court sentenced that only a child born from legal residents could obtain the Dominican nationality.

    As a consecuence corruption on immigration offices and officers went up to the roof (if that’s possible in this country where corruption is everywhere)

    The Dominican government had to back track a bit and issue a “regularisation” program a few years ago.

    The illegal immigration is still a huge issue. Lots of racism against Haitians.

  5. You are discovering that the water is wet. This has been the gameplay since my grownup children were left without the Venezuelan passport, around the year 2000. I tried raising my voice then and everyone bullied me. We renounced to the Venezuelan citizenship right away. Soon after we became proud USA citizens.


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