The trend of wealthy Chinese giving birth in the US so that their children can gain foreign citizenship was so popular in the early 2000’s that it inspired the 2013 Tang Wei movie, Finding Mr Right, which then inspired more Chinese to do the same.
However, the “birth tourism” trend that’s seeing pregnant Chinese women head to the USA and leave with a baby with US citizenship may have finally come to an end. On March 3, the FBI raided ten “birthing centers” in Orange County, California, signalling a crackdown on the practice.
Expectant mothers are able to pay upwards of $50,000 to be introduced to a birthing center which guarantees a social security number, US citizenship and a passport for their baby. These centers are also culturally important because they give Chinese mothers and their newborn children a place to pass the one month observational period, as commonly practiced in China.
One immigration expert said birth tourism isn’t specifically against the law, but these places coach expectant Chinese mothers on how to lie to US authorities to conceal their real motives.
No arrests were made in the March 3 raids, though US Immigration and Customs agents say charges are likely as they continue to investigate for visa violations and tax evasion. One such center is said to have successfully helped 400 Chinese mothers give birth to new US citizens.
The Associated Press said the FBI raid on three of the centers was one of the largest operations undertaken by the department of homeland security, and even involved an undercover agent.
The US constitution ensures that everyone born in the US becomes a US citizen. In China, the popular thinking is parents can give birth in the US, then return to China where the child will go to school. Once the kid reaches 21 years old, he or she can live in the USA and bring the parents as US immigrants.
Congress has apparently considered a few proposals to close this loophole and make it harder for the offspring of two non-US citizens to receive citizenship if born in the United States.