A residence in Chino Hills, Calif., is suspected of operating as a maternity hotel, where expectant Chinese mothers can allegedly pay thousands of dollars to give birth so that their children qualify as American citizens.
According to ABC News, the seven-bedroom home is associated with the website AsiamChild.com, which reportedly sells the opportunity for women to have a baby in the U.S. for an estimated $5,000 to $15,000. Materials on the site suggest that women wear dark clothing and hide their stomachs, so as not to draw attention to their pregnancies, ABC reports. Owner Hai Yong Wu declined their request for comment.
The alleged operation is already drawing the ire of local residents who are opposed to "birthing tourism," according to the San Bernardino Sun. Over the weekend, 70 or so people associated with a new group called "Not In Chino Hills" gathered to protest the hotel. Their complaints included protests about a business operating in a residential neighborhood, as well as the premise of selling citizenship.
"These women are coming to the United States under false pretenses," Kelly Good, a resident, told the news outlet. "They are pregnant and their goal is to have a baby here in the United States so that the child can be a United States citizen."
According to the San Jose Mercury news, Chino Hills Mayor Art Bennett has said that city officials have issued a cease-and-desist order based on code violations, rather than the maternity operation.
"This is a single family residential home that is being operated as a hotel and it isn't zoned for that and based on that it needs to be shut down," Bennett said.
As the Los Angeles Times reported last spring, birthing tourism is a big issue in Southern California; three homes in San Gabriel were shut down in March after residents noticed pregnant women coming in and out of the houses. Though many of the women who chose to come over from China to give birth end up raising their children in China, the potential for them to return to the U.S. and receive a public education hasn't sat well with some residents.
"If they lived here, I don't mind," Duke Trinh told the LA Times in March. "If they are running a business, I don't want them here. It's not fair for us if [the mothers] go back to China and later send their kids here for education — because they don't pay taxes, we do."
When NBC News reported on the rise of birthing tourism last year, officials behind the operations argued the practice is good for local economies. One woman running a maternity hotel in New York told NBC News that she'd worked with about 150 clients.
“These women are the economic elite…and they are fueling the economy here. I take them on shopping trips…one woman bought 15 Coach bags,” the woman told the news outlet.
While there is no way to track the scope of birthing tourism, NBC News notes dozens of websites courting parents from China, South Korea, and Eastern Europe do exist. In addition to the sites pushing the idea of a free education, the news outlet found they also aimed to sell the prospect of green cards for the entire family once the child turns 21.
California's Proposition 187 was submitted to the voters with the full support of then Republican governor Pete Wilson. It essentially blamed undocumented immigrants for the poor performance of the state economy in the early 1990s. The law called for cutting off benefits to undocumented immigrants: prohibiting their access to health care, public education, and other social services in California. It also required state authorities to report anyone who they suspected was undocumented. Status: The law passed with the support of 55 percent of the voters in 1994 but declared unconstitutional 1997. The law was killed in 1999 when a new governor, Democrat Gray Davis, refused to appeal a judicial decision that struck down most of the law. Even though short-lived, the legislation paved the way for harsher immigration laws to come. On the other hand, the strong reaction from the Hispanic community and immigration advocates propelled a drive for naturalization of legal residents and created as many as one million new voters.
The Arizona Act made it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to be within the state lines of Arizona without legal documents allowing their presence in the U.S. This law has been widely criticized as xenophobic and for encouraging racial profiling. It requires state authorities to inquire about an individual's immigration status during an arrest when there is "reasonable suspicion" that the individual is undocumented. The law would allow police to detain anyone who they believe was in the country illegally. Status: The law was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. But it has generated a swirl of controversy and questions about its constitutionality. A federal judge issued a ruling that blocked what critics saw as some of the law's harshest provisions. House: 35-31 (4/12/2011)
The controversy over Arizona's immigration law was followed by heated debate over Georgia's own law. HB 87 required government agencies and private companies to check the immigration status of applicants. This law also limited some government benefits to people who could prove their legal status. Status: Although a federal judge temporarily blocked parts of the law considered too extreme, it went into effect on July 1st. 2011. House: 113-56 Senate: 39-17
This bill, which was approved in 2010, bans contractors and subcontractors employ undocumented workers from having state construction contracts. The bill also protects employees who report construction sites that hire illegal workers. To ensure that contractors hire legal workers, the law requires employers to use the identification verification system E-verify, based on a compilation of legally issued Social Security numbers. Status: Approved on June 8th 2010. House: 188-6 (07/08/2010) Flickr photo by DonkeyHotey
Many states tried to emulate Arizona's SB 1070 law. However, most state legislatures voted against the proposals. Utah's legislature managed to approve an immigration law based on a different argument. Taking into consideration the criticism of racial profiling in Arizona, Utah required ID cards for "guest workers" and their families. In order to get such a card workers must pay a fee and have clean records. The fees go up to $2,500 for immigrants who entered the country illegally and $1,000 for immigrants who entered the country legally but were not complying with federal immigration law, according to the LA Times. Status: Law went into effect on 03/15/2011 House: 59-15 (03/04/2011) Senate: 22-5 (03/04/2011)
Florida's immigration law prohibits any restrictions on the enforcement of federal immigration law. It makes it unlawful for undocumented immigrants within the state to apply for work or work as an independent contractor. It forbids employers from hiring immigrants if they are aware of their illegal status and requires work applicants to go through the E-verify system in order to check their Social Security number. Status: effective since October 1st, 2010
The new immigration law in Alabama is considered the toughest in the land, even harder than Arizona's SB 1070. It prohibits law enforcement officers from releasing an arrested person before his or her immigration status is determined. It does not allow undocumented immigrants to receive any state benefit, and prohibits them from enrolling in public colleges, applying for work or soliciting work in a public space. The law also prohibits landlords from renting property to undocumented immigrants, and employers from hiring them. It requires residents to prove they are citizens before they become eligible to vote. The law asked every school in the state to submit an annual report with the number of presumed undocumented students, but this part, along with others, were suspended by federal courts. Status: Approved June 2nd, 2011 House: 73-28 (04/05/2011) Senate: 23-11 (05/05/2011) Flickr photo by longislandwins