Arriving as Pregnant Tourists, Leaving With American Babies

A house in San Gabriel, California was discovered to illegally house new mothers from China in a makeshift birthing center for visiting Chinese parents. The New York Times looks at the growing business of “maternity tourism,” for wealthy parents from China and elsewhere who pay huge sums to ensure their child can get a U.S. passport:

“These were not women living in squalor — it was a well taken care of place and clean, but there were a lot of women and babies,” said Clayton Anderson, a city inspector who shut down the house on March 9. “I have never seen anything like this before. We really couldn’t determine the exact number of people living there.”

For the last year, the debate over birthright citizenship has raged across the country, with some political leaders calling for an end to the 14th Amendment, which gives automatic citizenship to any baby born in the United States. Much of the debate has focused on immigrants entering illegally from poor countries in Latin America. But in this case the women were not only relatively wealthy, but also here legally on tourist visas. Most of them, officials say, have already returned to China with their American babies.

Immigration experts say it is impossible to know precisely how widespread “maternity tourism” is. Businesses in China, Mexico and South Korea advertise packages that arrange for doctors, insurance and postpartum care. And the Marmara, a Turkish-owned hotel on the Upper East Side in New York City, has advertised monthlong “baby stays” that come with a stroller.

NPR reported earlier on businesses in China that set up these trips for pregnant women.

March 30, 2011 12:56 PM
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