By Nes Lewis
At a glance, America seems like the perfect place to live. Programs available to all Americans, such as free education through high school, top-notch universities and healthcare, senior benefits, and the option to apply for loans and grants sound like utopist ideals to many. Moreover, children who were born in the United States can petition for their parents to have green cards once they are adults. This country also offers invaluable opportunities to climb in socio-economic status—if you are a citizen. Because of these benefits, America has had a tumultuous relationship with immigration from people all over the globe.
In a recent development, wealthy people from countries like China, Nigeria, and Turkey have found a way to enter the country “by turning a grant of temporary admission into a permanent stay” through “maternity tourism.” According to the OC Register, upscale apartment complexes close to the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California have been housing women about to give birth. These women, mainly from China, enter the United States under the guise of tourism. To enhance the tourist façade, individuals participating in this birthing system go sightseeing and shop for luxury goods like Rolex and Louis Vuitton and take trips to Disneyland. Some are advised to land in Las Vegas or Hawaii, popular vacation destinations. The fees begin at a hefty $38,000. Aside from lodging, women who come to the United States to give birth receive advice on how to circumvent immigration officials’ questionings. With loose clothing to disguise pregnancy, fabricated employment backgrounds, and a package with vacation activities, women enter the United States and stay in luxury homes in nice cities like Irvine. Then, when the mother gives birth, the child is a citizen, creating a reason for the mother to stay permanently.
This brand of maternity tourism has been wildly successful, with the proliferation of companies such as You Win USA Vacation Resort, USA Happy Baby Inc., and Star Baby Care that facilitate maternity tourism by allegedly helping women enter and give birth in the United States. At 7 a.m. on Tuesday, March 3, federal agents raided The Carlyle at Colton Plaza and other homes in search of evidence for tax and visa fraud. Agents also speculated as to whether money laundering and conspiracy has taken place, and the leaders behind these three companies might face criminal charges. However, the raid was largely unsuccessful, no one was arrested, and You Win USA Vacation’s operators could not be found.
In response to the raid, American citizens are outraged against California’s newest immigrants who are rumored to cost citizens money, as they often do not pay the full cost of giving birth. According to the LA Times, one woman associated with this system paid $4,080 of the $28,845 accumulated in hospital bills despite her apparent ability to pay for indulgences like high-end brands. Reporters scandalize affluence as a ticket to citizenship, and the writers point to these bills as theft. In Letters to the Editor of the LA Times, once citizen likened the newcomers and their infants to the people who attacked on 9/11. Another woman wrote “The crime is especially heinous because many of the families are leaving us taxpayers to pay their hospital bills.”
This outrage is unnecessary. Only a country that cherishes the dollar over human health and lives could make such a statement. There is no crime in using natal care. Perhaps the issue is not the influx of individuals who successfully avoid unfair hospital bills, (with citizenship and country boundaries aside, how is a $28,845 hospital bill accumulated, anyway?) stimulate the American tourist industry, and hope to invest in an American education. Perhaps the issue is lingering xenophobia—in California, of all places. Maternity tourism is not the problem here, the true issue is lingering xenophobia and a broken immigration system.