Federal agents raid more than 20 “maternity hotels”

Emily Berthiaume, Teen Intrest Editor

Federal agents raided more than twenty “maternity hotels”, places where foreign women give birth in order to have a U.S-citizen baby, in Southern California on March 3.  Most of the “hotels” were located in apartment complexes in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties where authorities think the businesses housed foreign women about to give birth, according to federal officials.

Most of the women utilizing the maternity services are from China and have paid anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 for lodging, transportation and food, according to a statement by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. While that price may not cover health care, mother can pay extra for packages including trips to Disneyland and shopping malls.

“Based on the results of the investigations to date, it appears the women pay cash for prenatal visits and the actual delivery,” U.S. authorities said. “As part of the package, clients were promised they would receive Social Security numbers and U.S. passports for their infants, which the mothers would take with them when they left the U.S.”

There is a lure for Chinese women to give birth in America because the Constitution grants American citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. The trend also appears to be growing because in 2012 about 10,000 Chinese women gave birth in America, which is more than double the amount in 2008, according to Chinese state media.

An American child, through their foreign passport, could be a family’s ticket out of China if they want to leave pollution and food safety scares. President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has given rich Chinese more reason to be on edge.

“If things become economically or politically uncertain in one’s country of origin, the children have a place to come to,” Leti Volpp, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said.

Over   the last few years, almost two-thirds of Chinese with more than 10 million yuan, $1.6 million, in the bank have emigrated or are planning to, according to a Hurun report.

Authorities believe that crimes committed at these “hotels” could include bringing in and harboring undocumented visitors, conspiracy, fraud, misuse of visas and permits, tax evasion, false tax returns, and willful failure to file report of foreign bank and financial reports, court papers said.

“Any women encountered at the search locations will be interviewed and those identified as potential material witnesses will be directed when and where to report for further questioning,” authorities said Tuesday.

Eric Blair, a Homeland Security Investigation agent, alleged that birthing houses advise foreign national clients to fly through Hawaii or Las Vegas and not directly to Los Angeles because of the heightened security measure by U.S. Customs and Border Protection there.

Xiaoyan Zhang, a Chinese woman who utilized a “maternity hospital” service called You Win USA in Irvine, California, paid $38,000 for a stay at a luxury apartment and U.S. Citizenship for her baby. You Win USA was one of the businesses raided on March 3.