- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2011

SAN GABRIEL, Calif. | Authorities have shut down an upscale, two-story house after discovering a makeshift maternity clinic crammed with 10 newborns and a dozen Chinese women who paid as much as $35,000 to travel to Southern California to give birth to children who would automatically be U.S. citizens, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Police and city inspectors closed the converted home on March 8 in San Gabriel, a suburb east of Los Angeles, after the owner was repeatedly warned that it violated building codes, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

The stucco home with gold-colored shutters and an ornate brick walkway had extra rooms and some closets had been converted into bathrooms.

Officials found medical supplies along with Chinese-language pamphlets on baby care. Some babies were being cared for in what used to be the kitchen. All were examined and found to be healthy, code enforcement officer Jorge Arellano said.

U.S. law automatically entitles children born on U.S. soil to citizenship, and it is not illegal for pregnant women to visit the U.S. to give birth.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, said women from other countries have long traveled to the U.S. legally on tourist or student visas and given birth, but the discovery of a converted town house holding multiple women and babies might indicate the practice is becoming more institutionalized.

“The reports up to now have been about travel agencies abroad that specialized in this, but they send one person at a time here,” he said. “What this could suggest is … they’re taking it to the next step. Whoever is organizing this type of operation is buying or leasing a home to become a clearing house. That’s a serious problem.”

So-called birthing tourists or maternity tourists generally travel to the U.S. to deliver — and get a birth certificate from a U.S. hospital — but return home soon afterward, the only goal being to provide their children with American citizenship, said Mr. Krikorian.

Republican lawmakers have targeted automatic citizenship for children born in the U.S. and earlier this year said they hoped to trigger a Supreme Court review of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment or force Congress to take action with legislation they have drafted on the issue.

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King sponsored a bill that would limit automatic citizenship to people with at least one parent who is a citizen, is a legal permanent resident or served in the military, but there has been little movement on the legislation since it was introduced.

Some states, too, have tried to take steps to limit birthright citizenship. Last week, Arizona’s state Senate rejected illegal immigration bills that included measures intended to produce a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on entitlement to U.S. citizenship at birth under the 14th Amendment.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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