Complaints about southern California maternity hospitals for Chinese women have surfaced with some regularity in recent years. Four years ago, in San Gabriel, a city in eastern Los Angeles County with a large Asian population, local authorities closed a house where neighbors had reported many women, some pregnant, others with infants, came and went.
And in 2013, Los Angeles County broke the 16 Maternity Code for operating as boarding houses in residential areas; one of those cited was Pheasant Ridge, a 600-unit apartment complex in Rowland Heights, where 11 homes were raided on Tuesday.
Zoning laws have generally been the primary legal tool against maternity hospitals, as it is not illegal for pregnant foreigners to visit the United States or to give birth while visiting. And if lying to get a tourist visa is illegal, it’s not easy to prove.
Tuesday’s raids, the largest to date, were an attempt to crack down on the industry promoting maternity tourism, rather than women giving birth.
“It’s a good start if the goal is to deter fraudulent acts related to birth tourism,” said Jon Feere, legal and policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, which favors stricter immigration laws. . “It’s possible that this sends a message to future birth tourists that the trip may not be worth it. But if the government does not prosecute genuine birth tourists or prevent the issuance of passports to their babies, it may not have much effect.
On Tuesday, dozens of federal agents raided upscale apartment complexes – and the homes of business owners – in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, looking for documents, computer records and other evidence of tax evasion and immigration.
According to the affidavits, the companies hid their income and their bank accounts abroad. Federal authorities used undercover informants to find out details of the companies. In one case, a U.S.-based Chinese national posing as the cousin of a potential customer in China explored the various options and even asked to see what “containment” accommodation might be available.