In the first crackdown on birth tourism businesses, US federal authorities have arrested three individuals for bringing pregnant Chinese women into the country to secure birthright citizenship for their children.
Among the arrested were Dongyuan Li, 41, whose business was called 'You Win USA' coached pregnant Chinese women on how to get into the United States to deliver babies. Those infants would then enjoy all the benefits of American citizenship.
Over two years, she raked in millions through her business, where mothers-to-be paid between USD 40,000 and USD 80,000 each to come to California, stay in an upscale apartment and give birth, authorities said.
Jing Dong, 42, and Michael Wei Yueh Liu, 53, who allegedly operated 'USA Happy Baby', also were arrested.
More than a dozen others, including the operator of another such business, also face charges but are believed to have returned to China, said the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
Unsealed Thursday, the indictments charge operators and clients of three "maternity house" or "birthing house" schemes that were dismantled in March 2015 when federal agents executed 35 search warrants, which resulted from international undercover operations.
The 17 unsealed cases contain the first-ever federal criminal charges brought against operators and customers of birth tourism businesses.
The indictments describe birth tourism schemes in which foreign nationals, mostly from China, applied for visitor visas to come to the United States and lied about the length of their trips, where they would stay, and the purposes of their trips – which were to come to the US for three months to give birth so their children would receive US birthright citizenship
"America’s way of life is not for sale," said Joseph Macias, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, Los Angeles.
"The birth tourism operations not only committed widespread immigration fraud and engaged in international money laundering, they also defrauded property owners when leasing the apartments and houses used in their birth tourism schemes, according to the indictments," Department of Homeland Security said.
According to the indictments that charge the operators of the schemes, they coached their Chinese customers how to pass the US Consulate interview in China by falsely stating that they were going to stay in the US.\ for only two weeks. Their clients were also coached to trick US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at ports of entry by wearing loose clothing that would conceal their pregnancies.
The indictments also allege that the customers were directed to fly to Hawaii from China – instead of directly to Los Angeles – because it was easier to get by CBP in Hawaii.
The indictments allege that many of the Chinese birth tourism customers failed to pay all of the medical costs associated with their hospital births, and the debts were referred to collection.
According to a Department of Justice press release, the three businesses under scrutiny allegedly advertised access to "'the most attractive nationality'; 'better air' and less pollution; 'priority for jobs in US government'; superior educational resources, including 'free education from junior high school to public high school'; a more stable political situation; and the potential to 'receive your senior supplement benefits when you are living overseas.'"