Bringing the border to baby: birth registration as bordering practice for migrant women’s children

Publication date

28 Mar 2019

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Babies born ‘out of place’ to migrant mothers pose a challenge to states seeking to restrict access to migration and citizenship. In places as diverse as Texas, Tel Aviv, and Santo Domingo, policymakers have been modifying administrative requirements to limit access to birth certificates for babies born to migrant women with temporary or irregular status as a measure aimed at discouraging their permanent settlement. This raises concerns regarding the gendered ways in which women can be controlled via their reproductive lives when childbirth is made a juncture of migration enforcement, and children’s right to an identity and a nationality violated as a result. Rights advocates are pushing back against this practice using existing human rights frameworks. This article provides an overview of what birth registration as a bordering practice looks like so that scholars, policymakers, and practitioners around the world can recognise and resist it. It focuses on the case of the Dominican Republic’s denial of birth certificates for people of Haitian descent, and an action-research project aiming to facilitate access to the Dominican civil registry for children of mixed couples (migrant mother and Dominican father). It concludes by highlighting the implications for the babies born ‘in between’ – who are at risk of statelessness and other rights violations – and pointing to international frameworks for upholding children’s right to a nationality.