Proponents of birthright citizenship often paint it as an issue involving only poverty-stricken, well-meaning immigrants who come to the U.S. for a better life and just happen to have a baby after they get here.
Under birthright citizenship, any child born in the U.S. is automatically an American citizen at birth – even if the child’s parent or parents are here illegally.
A recent federal indictment of 19 individuals on immigration fraud charges shows that a whole industry has grown up to bring pregnant women from other countries to the U.S. so their children can be born as American citizens.
The 19 indicted people were charged with operating or participating in “birth tourism” agencies.
According the U.S. Justice Department – which took action for the first time to break up three such agencies – the three operations in Southern California made millions of dollars bringing thousands of Chinese women to the U.S. for the sole purpose of securing birthright citizenship for their children.
A 20th individual, who is a lawyer, has already been sentenced to federal prison for helping material witnesses flee to China.
The Justice Department’s investigation was long and complicated, involving 35 search warrants and international undercover operations.
According to the department, the birth tourism operators engaged in immigration fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, marriage fraud and identity theft. They also allegedly “defrauded property owners when leasing the apartments and houses” used as “maternity” or “birthing” houses for the Chinese nationals to reside in while they waited to have their babies.
Here’s how the fraud worked: Chinese women were coached to apply for tourist or visitors’ visas and lie to the U.S. Consulates in China by claiming they were only coming for two weeks. They were then told to wear “loose clothing to conceal their pregnancies” and “trick U.S. Customs at ports of entry,” according to the Justice Department.
The women were also told to fly to the U.S. through Hawaii, instead of directly to Los Angeles, because “it was easier to get through U.S. Customs in Hawaii,” which indicates that the Department of Homeland Security may have a problem with its personnel and procedures in that state.
The Chinese women were housed for months in dozens of apartments rented by the birth tourism organizations.
Nicola Hanna, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, said the operators of these schemes showed “contempt” for the U.S. in their statements at the same time that they were “luring clients with the power and prestige of U.S. citizenship for their children.”
Moreover, Hanna said some of wealthy clients also “showed blatant contempt for the United States.”
The “power and prestige” of U.S. citizenship – according to what the operators of these birthright tourism agencies in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties in California told their clients – included “better air” and less pollution; “priority for jobs in the U.S. government;” “free education from junior high school to public high school;” a more stable political situation; and the potential to “receive your senior supplement benefits when you are living overseas.”
And who were those Chinese clients? According to the indictments, they included Chinese government officials as well as others associated with Chinese Central Television, China Telecom, the Bank of China, the Public Security Bureau of the Beijing Municipal Government, and a government radio station.
So officials of the Chinese government were directly involved in fraudulently procuring birthright citizenship for their children in part to obtain “priority for jobs in the U.S. government,” raising serious potential national security concerns.
The amount of money involved is staggering.
A “You Win USA” organization in Orange County used 20 apartments in Irvine to house its clients. It charged each customer $40,000 to $80,000, and received $3 million in international wire transfers from China in just two years, the Justice Department said.
The Star Baby Care operation in Los Angeles County bragged that it had brought more than 8,000 pregnant women to the U.S.
A San Bernardino operation, USA Happy Baby Inc., charged its “VIP” customers as much as $100,000 each, and used 14 different bank accounts to “receive more than $3.4 million in international wire transfers from China” in just two years, according to the Justice Department.
One of the indicted individuals told federal agents that “his birth tourism business investment was ‘chump change’ because he had more than $10 million in his bank accounts in China.” Among the assets seized at one of the birthright tourism bureaus were four Mercedes Benz vehicles and “many gold bars and coins.”
The indicted head of “You Win USA,” Wei Yueh Liu, referred to U.S. immigration authorities as “foreigners” in internal communications.
In a disgusting illustration of the misogyny of Communist China, he discussed “whether to refund a down payment because, once the customer found ‘the baby is a girl, her husband arranged (an) abortion for her,’” the Justice Department said.
Unfortunately, many of those indicted are fugitives who will likely never be punished. They fled the U.S. and went back to China to avoid prosecution. There is obviously no chance whatsoever that the Chinese government, many of whose officials apparently participated in this immigration fraud, will ever extradite these criminals to the U.S.
These indictments show why we need to join the rest of the world and end birthright citizenship. We are one of only a handful of countries that recognize it, and it acts as a magnet to draw illegal immigrants into the U.S.
As I have explained before, birthright citizenship is a misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which does not provide for birthright citizenship to immigrants who are here illegally or temporarily on tourist, visitor or student visas.
What is also disturbing is how long it has taken the U.S. Justice Department to act. Full credit clearly goes to the Trump administration for carrying out its promise to fully enforce our immigration laws and or filing the first indictments ever for birthright tourism immigration fraud.
But Star Baby Care boasted on its website that it had been operating since 1999.Why didn’t the prior Bush, Clinton, or Obama administrations do anything to stop this? How could this kind of fraud involving literally thousands of immigrants continue for two decades without the U.S. government taking any action to stop it?
It is about time the Justice Department acted to address this serious problem that makes a mockery of our immigration system and potentially threatens our national security.