Washington, Feb 1 (IANS) US authorities arrested three people on charges of running “birth tourism” companies that catered to Chinese clients in southern California, the media reported.
It is the first time that criminal charges have been filed in a US federal court over the practice, CNN quoted Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, as saying on Thursday.
“Birth tourists” travel to foreign countries to give birth, so that their children acquire the citizenship of that country.
In the US, the legal principle of “jus soli” or right of the soil, automatically confers citizenship upon babies born on US soil. Other countries, including Switzerland and Japan, do not grant citizenship automatically unless one or more parents are also citizens.
Federal prosecutors also unsealed indictments of 16 more people, who are considered fugitives who are all linked to three alleged Southern California birth tourism companies that catered to Chinese clients.
According to a Department of Justice (DoJ) statement issued on Thursday, the three businesses under scrutiny allegedly advertised access to “the most attractive nationality; better air and less pollution; priority for jobs in US government; superior educational resources, including 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”.
The three people in custody have been charged with “conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, international money laundering and identity theft”, according to the DoJ statement.
The charges stem from a 2015 raid of dozens of “maternity hotels”, CNN reported.
Pregnant clients paid between $15,000 to $50,000 each, for lodging, transportation and food during their stays.
According to the indictment announcement, the companies instructed women to wear “loose clothing that would conceal their pregnancies” before US immigration officials.