NBC News was on the scene as Federal Agents raided what is coined a Maternity Hotel in Irvine, California. The luxury apartment complex was being used as a hotel destination for foreign women or birth tourists who wanted their babies to be born in the United States.
Federal and local agents raided the building. The women were not arrested, but were considered material witnesses against the organization that sold them the opportunity to give birth on American soil. The organizers would enable the women to obtain Visas and live in the apartments until it was time to deliver in a local hospital.
The price for such an opportunity is steep. According to the Huffington Post, women are charged upwards of $10,000 for the chance to stay in the United States and give birth to their child. Why?
Giving birth in the United States grants the child automatic U.S. citizenship. Hence the term, Anchor Baby. The United States is the only country in the developed world other than Canada that grants jus soli or birthright citizenship. The U.S. law dates back to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, ratified after the Civil War to ensure that all freed slaves and their children would be American citizens.
The practice has not been well-received by local residents. According to the Huffington Post, the citizens of Chino Hills were incensed over the presence of a maternity hotel that they garnered the support of the City Council, who in turn filed a public nuisance lawsuit against the hotel. Birth tourism has also ignited outrage on Capitol Hill according to NBC News.
“They are gaming the system…and people should be put in jail,” said Representative Phil Gingrey (R-Ga), one of several members of Congress trying to put an end to birth tourism.
NBC News reported that a neighbor at the Irvine apartments, Linda Trust, said she suspected something strange was going on because she’s seen a forklift full of diapers make a drop off at the complex, a man in a chef’s hat, and women carrying trays of food — though she had never seen a baby.
The Irvine apartment complex was not the only maternity hotel targeted. Search warrants were executed in 20 different locations in the Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino counties. Officials told NBC News that the warrants targeted three different birth tourism operations. Court documents providing more details are expected to be unsealed later Tuesday.
Read more about birth tourism by clicking here.