I've written previously about the unsettling rise in "birth tourism"—a practice in which wealthy women from another country (typically China or Turkey) pay tens of thousands of dollars to give birth in the United States to an American citizen before returning to their home country with their child. Yesterday, federal agents raided several hotels and apartment complexes used by birth tourism rings to house pregnant women, citing suspicions of visa fraud and money laundering.
While nobody was arrested, the IRS and Dept. of Homeland Security launched the raids after two Homeland Security Investigations agents posing as pregnant Chinese women were told how to hide their pregnancies and fabricate employment histories in order to gain entry to the United States to have a child. There were also concerns that despite the thousands of dollars paid to birth tourism agencies, the hospitals where women actually gave birth were never compensated.
From USA Today:
Agents also said hospitals were defrauded. In one case, new parents last year paid just $4,080 of a $28,845 hospital bill, even though their bank account showed charges at Louis Vuitton, Rolex and Wynn Las Vegas hotel-casino.
Agents with search warrants raided about 20 locations in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, including a luxury apartment complex in Irvine that was home to an operation called "You Win USA Vacation Resort."
Authorities did not reveal how many women were found, or say whether any -- or how many -- might be allowed to stay to give birth. Cases will be handled on an individual basis.
The practice of coming to the United States to give birth isn't illegal, but visa fraud most certainly is.
While I empathize with people attempting to beat China's oppressive one-child policy, I think it's a tad absurd that people are able to waltz over to the United States, give birth to an American citizen, and then leave as soon as the baby is able to fly. As I've said before, citizenship should mean something, not just be used as something to exploit when it comes time to apply for college. (American citizens living abroad do not have to apply to U.S. schools through the international pool, which tend to be more competitive than the domestic pool of applicants.) While Congress has toyed with bills to restrict the "birth tourism" practice and redefine the United State's policy of jus soli citizenship, they haven't gone anywhere. The United States and Canada are the only two developed nations on earth who grant citizenship to every child born on its soil. Most countries require that one or both parents are either citizens of or legally residing in the country in order to transfer citizenship to a child. The practice of "birth tourism" should end.