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Expert: American Babies ‘Status Symbols’ for New Chinese Elite

Pregnant Chinese nationals have reportedly been coming to the United States for decades in order to give birth and claim U.S. citizenship for their children. Many newly-rich Chinese have done so not only to secure the benefits and protections that come with U.S. citizenship, but also, according to court documents and media reports, as a show of wealth and status.

Court warrant documents detail an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agent’s investigation of one of three recently raided businesses that allegedly facilitate visa fraud and maternity tourism. “For the past several years,” one document states, “thousands of pregnant women from China have been traveling to the United States using temporary visitor visas for the sole purpose of giving birth in the United States so that their children will enjoy the benefits of natural-born American citizens.”

The report goes on to cite a CNN Money article that references Chinese state media and an exponential increase in the number of Chinese mothers traveling to the U.S. to give birth in recent years. In 2012, the report states, approximately 10,000 Chinese women gave birth in the U.S.–up from approximately 4,200 in 2008, just four years before.

Additional research cited in the warrant documents estimates that 40,000 children are born in the U.S. through “birth tourism,” while 300,000 children are reportedly born to foreign citizens in the U.S. every year.

UC Irvine professor Yong Chen, a specialist in Asian American history, told the Orange County Register that American babies can be considered status symbols for those with newfound wealth.

“It’s a growing phenomenon,” Chen told the Register. “Their neighbor goes to the U.S. to have a baby and another one, then they do it. It shows they can afford it.”

Warrant documents state that most Chinese traveling to the U.S. to give birth to U.S. citizen children are wealthy, including almost 67% of Chinese with $1.6 million equivalent in the bank, according to media reports cited.

Breitbart California reported that warrant documents revealed several “maternity tourism” customers at one company are allegedly employees of the Chinese government.

Chinese nationals are also fast buying U.S. real estate. “Chinese buyers are the fastest growing segment of international buyers in the U.S. because of rising affluence and appreciation of the Chinese yuan,” said Celeste Starchild, vice president and general manager at ListHub, reports Realtor.org. “76 percent of Chinese buyers reported all-cash purchases of U.S. properties. Chinese buyers typically purchase more expensive homes in high-end markets, but markets like Dallas, Seattle and Irvine, Texas are of growing interest.”

Realtor.org reports that 53% of Chinese buyers favor California. For the 12 months ending March 2013, Detroit, Los Angeles, Irvine, Las Vegas, and Orlando topped the list of markets of greatest interest to Chinese buyers.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana

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