Birth tourism and “maternity hotels” are an increasing problem as people take advantage of the American Constitution’s 14th Amendment and visa waver programs.
So you want that little bundle of joy your expecting to have U.S. citizenship do ya? All it takes is between $15,000 to $50,000 and a three-month stay in the States and baby-boom!, you’ve got yourself a little American.
And in true capitalist fashion companies have started offering package deals where expecting mothers can shack up in a “maternity hotel” offered by Koreans or Chinese entrepreneurs operating mostly in LA and New York.
According to authorities, the all-inclusive package covers airfare for the expecting mother, city tours, pre- and post-partum care, customized meals three times a day, maid services, and even English lessons for new moms.
But a slew of complaints has gotten the attention of U.S. law enforcement and the crackdown has begun.
While the primary target are Chinese and Koreans living in the States due to the large numbers participating in the scam, the practice is growing increasingly popular with Nigerian, Taiwanese and Turkish nationals according to one study.
Mexicans living and working in the States under work visas are also known to widely take advantage of the American Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which grants any child born on U.S. soil automatic citizenship. When those children turn 21 they then qualify for the “family reunification” statute which allows their family to petition for permanent residence –which most often is granted.
Just a few weeks back a Chinese-run mansion subdivided into 17 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms, was shut down for code enforcement violations –at the moment the only legal recourse available to authorities.
The front of one of the maternity hotels. Officials said they could not determine exactly how many women had been there and how many births took place.
Koreans reportedly run dozens of these facilities in Los Angeles and have recently come under increasing scrutiny by U.S. officials.
“We’re all keeping a careful lookout,’’ said Kim, a maternity helper who refused to give her full name during a recent interview with The Korea Times.
According to Kim, more than 20 expectant and new moms are currently housed in the unit where she has been working for the past two years.
“It’s a busy place. People constantly come and go,’’ she said, adding that some women stay on a tight two-month schedule, but most stay for three months, the allowed time in the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
Following the closing of a “maternity hotel” last year in San Gabriel, California, a city inspector told a New York Times reporter:
These were not women living in squalor — it was a well taken care of place and clean, but there were a lot of women and babies,” said Clayton Anderson, a city inspector. “I have never seen anything like this before. We really couldn’t determine the exact number of people living there.
This could be another nail in the what could be the coffin of the Korea-U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) agreed upon between the two countries a little over four years ago. The VWP has been criticized in recent years as a wave of Korean prostitutes and pimps using easy access to America to set up shop have caused great concern with both Korean and U.S. authorities.
Those who should perhaps be most concerned are the tens-of-thousands of Korean tourists who legally visit the United States every year thanks to the VWP.