California city fights 'birth tourism'

Updated: 2014-12-19 13:50

By Lian Zi in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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"Birth tourism" has been a controversial issue in Southern California for some time. Some homes converted into "maternity hotels" in the region draw pregnant Chinese women to stay and gave birth in the United States.

According to the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, those newborns will be automatically granted American citizenship. A councilman in the city of Chino Hills is trying to stop the practice.

"There is a need to make it more difficult for birth tourism," Ed Graham, city councilman of Chino Hills, a southeastern suburb of Los Angeles, told China Daily on Thursday in an email.

Graham asked the City Council on Tuesday to develop a boarding house ordinance that would dedicate more time to shutting down illegal hotels in response to residents' fears that houses used for birth tourism are proliferating in their neighborhoods.

Neighbors want more accountable owners, said Graham, who noted that homeowners who use their homes as maternity hotels usually don't take care of their properties.

"The federal government refuses to do anything so we must (take that responsibility)," Graham said in the email. Graham told China Daily that "an ordinance could not stop it" but could limit the number of maternity hotels in the city.

California city fights 'birth tourism'

Residents and local non-profit organizations upset about those business ventures operating in upscale Chino Hills neighborhoods launched a movement called Not in Chino Hills.

The Chinese American Association of Chino Hills (CAACH) responded to China Daily with a press release to define their stance and position against the birth tourism and maternity hotels not only in their community of Chino Hills, but also in other communities in the nation.

"CAACH strongly believes that this is an outrageous exploitation of the United States Constitution," the statement said. "While it is a constitutional freedom for an individual who gives birth in our country, and the offspring to automatically become US citizens, it is nothing but an exploitation of the same freedom for monetary purpose," it reads.

Although council members and residents worked together to shut down the maternity hotels, the industry is still active and profitable. Numerous advertisements of birth tourism and maternity hotels are still available on Chinese language websites.

"We offer all-inclusive packages and services to Chinese pregnant women who plan to give birth to a child in the US," said an employee of Happy Home Stay, a Rowland Heights "maternity hotel", who didn't disclose her name.

The price of a three-month stay is about $14,000, which includes lodging, meals, prenatal and nursery care and assistance in documentation preparation after the child is born.