Finally, federal indictments against birth tourism

As the old saying goes, half a loaf is better than none. Today’s subject isn’t bread baking, it’s recent and long overdue Homeland Security Investigations’ action against 19 California-based Chinese nationals for birth tourism operations. HSI’s action followed up on its 2015 sweep that uncovered several illicit goings-on that included criminal offenses at maternity hotels that centered on women who paid as much as $80,000 for the privilege of giving birth to a U.S. citizen child.

By violating immigration laws and committing other crimes involving conspiracy, visa fraud, income tax fraud and money laundering, the unscrupulous birth tourism proprietors allegedly raked in tens of millions of dollars over the years. One of the operators, Dongyuan Li, faced the seizure of her $2.1 million Irving, Calif., home, six luxury vehicles and more than $1 million from bank accounts, as well as many gold bars and coins. According to the ICE press release, Li “received $3 million in international wire transfers from China in just two years.”

According to the indictments, birth hotel owners advised their clients to lie on their visa applications, a crime, and to hide their pregnancies from airport Customs and Border Protection officials. The end game for the foreign-born mothers is to secure U.S. citizenship for their children through the current misinterpretation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Although no court has ruled on the 14th Amendment as it applies to U.S.-born children whose mothers are not American citizens, those children born on U.S. soil are granted automatic citizenship, a practice known as jus soli. Constitutionalists argue that since the foreign-born mother isn’t “under the jurisdiction thereof…” (the U.S. government), citizenship should be conferred only on children whose parents are citizens, known as jus sanguinis.

Birth tourism hurts Americans in multiple ways. Later in their lives, the newly minted citizens will have unfettered access to jobs, Social Security and other affirmative benefits. The birth tourism industry is big business. Estimates for the annual births related to the tourist scam range between 40,000 and 60,000 annually. Birth tourism spawns population-busting chain migration since the anchor babies, once they turn 21, can sponsor their parents for permanent residency. Then, in turn, the parents will eventually sponsor their non-nuclear family members. In 2016, the U.S. admitted more than 300,000 people through chain migration.

As welcome as the HSI action is, the best hope is that it will send a warning shot over the operators’ heads, and possibly deter other global foreign nationals from signing up for birth tourism packages. It would be more effective, however, if the State Department announced that it will no longer issue travel visas to obviously pregnant women. Then, pregnant women who ignore the State Department’s warning should be turned away at their port of entry.

Since this is the first federal intervention into the sleazy, criminal birth tourism businesses that’s been thriving for more than a decade, the question is what took so long. The query is especially significant because the preferred destination for many wealthy pregnant Russians is Florida Trump properties. Although the Trump Organization doesn’t profit from the subleased condominiums that the Russians rent at up to $85,000, it’s inconceivable that President Trump, who railed against chain migration, is unaware of birth tourism on his Florida property.

Joseph Macias, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Los Angeles, said that “America’s way of life is not for sale,” and promised to aggressively target “those who would make a mockery of our laws and our values to benefit and enrich themselves.” HSI has a long row to hoe. Dozens of birth tourism scams are still thriving, although perhaps less brazenly.

Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at [email protected].