Tuesday Federal Agents forced entry into twenty Southern California locations believed to be orchestrating “maternity tourism” scams for pregnant alien women aiming to gain U.S. citizenship for their soon to be born child.
According to U.S. immigration officials, the “maternity hotels,” which housed predominantly women from China, cost anywhere from $15,000 to 50,000 depending on negotiated services.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, reported that locations for the “maternity hotels” included Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.
No one was arrested in connection with the scheme, reported Reuters. It is not illegal for women coming from foreign countries to give birth to children in the United States. Moreover, the U.S. Constitution grants citizenship to children born in the United States regardless of where the parents are from.
However, other felonies such as visa and tax fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy are often attached to these types of operation. Wednesday ICE investigators will interview the women and any other material witnesses found at the locations.
Authorities contend that maternity tourism, also known as “birth tourism,” have been around for years using the internet, newspapers, social media, and other platforms to attract potential customers. CNN Money reported that the number of Chinese women giving birth in the U.S. more than doubled to about 10,000 in 2012, up from about 4,200 in 2008.
Services other than housing are provided for the women. Prenatal care and actual deliveries are performed depending on the arranged contract. ICE explained that more expensive packages “include recreational activities, such as visits to Disneyland, shopping malls and even an outing to a firing range.”