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.