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'Tourist' Maternity Wards Shut Down in California

Maternity Ward

A maternity ward specifically for tourists from China was shut down in California

Authorities in San Gabriel, Calif., have shut down three fancy townhouses that were operating as maternity centers for Chinese mothers who paid through the nose to ensure their children were born in the United States, thereby becoming automatic citizens.

Citing code violations such as structural walls that had been breached, city inspectors and the police closed the buildings that are located in a Los Angeles suburb with a heavy Asian population. According to the women in the houses at the time they were shut down, their families paid to send them to the U.S. to give birth. The homes were where the women stayed before and after giving birth at local hospitals.

There’s not a law against pregnant women visiting the U.S. to give birth, and all children born in this country are granted citizenship. What’s unusual about this case, according to experts who spoke to MSNBC, is that it appears that women traveled from the Far East through an organized travel agency business.

“What this could suggest is … they’re taking it to the next step. Whoever is organizing this type of operation is buying or leasing a home to become a clearing house. That’s a serious problem,” said the executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they would only investigate if the case involved fraudulently obtained visas.

Regardless, the case is sure to incite Republican lawmakers, who have been eyeing limiting automatic citizenship for children born in the United States. A proposed bill — that’s moving slowly through the ranks — would limit automatic citizenship to people with at least parent who is a citizen, a legal permanent resident or served in the military, according to MSNBC. Some states have also tried to limit birthright citizenship, including Arizona, where the state Senate last week shot down illegal immigration bills that included language about who is entitled to citizenship at birth.

Since “birthing tourism” makes up only a small fraction of immigrants and tourists in the United States, and since it’s not illegal for women to come to this country and give birth (whether on purpose or not), then I can’t imagine why anyone would target the practice (unless the women are being taken advantage of or are being made to stay in unsafe or unsanitary conditions). Yet somehow I feel like there are enough anti-immigration people out there who will make it their mission to stop this legal practice from continuing. And I think that’s too bad, not to mention sadly xenophobic.

Meanwhile, the so-called “tourist” maternity wards in San Gabriel are being renovated to comply with city code.

Do you have a problem with the idea of tourist maternity wards?

Image: Creative Commons

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