- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Federal prosecutors announced an indictment Wednesday against six people they say operated “birth houses” in New York where they housed Turkish women who’d scammed the immigration system in order to be in the U.S. to give birth — earning automatic citizenship for their children.

The organizers charged $7,500 per person, and provided transportation, rooms in one of seven “birth houses” and health insurance — which in reality was U.S. taxpayer-funded Medicaid.

They ran Facebook pages with Turkish names that translate into phrases like “My baby should be born in America,” and coached the women to conceal their pregnancies from immigration officials.

Prosecutors allege that 117 women made the trip as part of the scam, and gave birth to 199 children. Medicaid paid out $2.1 million in bogus claims for the births.

“This is a brazen birth tourism scheme in which the defendants not only violated our nation’s immigration laws, but went a step further, sticking the taxpayers of Suffolk County with the bill for their scam by stealing millions of dollars from the Medicaid program,” said Suffolk District Attorney Timothy D. Sini.

The scam ran from at least the start of 2017 through September of this year, when the internet ads enticed what U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme called “a parade of women” to pay up.

According to the indictment, the women were coached to tell consular officials that they planned to stay at hotels and were coming for tourism or business, when in reality their purpose was specifically to scam citizenship, and they stayed at the “birth houses.”

All seven of the birth houses were in Suffolk County.

In applying for Medicaid, the women were falsely listed as New York residents, according to the indictment “when, in fact, the defendants knew well and believed that the pregnant Turkish aliens were residents of Turkey, who had traveled to the United States for the purpose of obtaining medical care and birthright citizenship for their children.”

Five of the accused were arrested Wednesday morning, while the sixth remains at large.

Under U.S. policy, almost anyone born on American soil is a citizen by birth.

That creates an incentive for foreign women to try to be in the U.S. when they deliver — in a practice known as “birth tourism.”

There is nothing inherently illegal about a foreign woman on a visit to the U.S. delivering a baby, though orchestrating it often involves fraud.

The Trump administration has made a major effort to try to crack down on birth tourism, with charges filed against a large operation in California aimed at Chinese women, and with regulatory changes intended to give consular officers more leeway to deny visas to women they suspect are coming for the purpose of delivering birth.

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