Following the arrests this morning of three defendants who allegedly operated “birth tourism” outfits that catered to Chinese clients, federal authorities today unsealed indictments that charge a total of 19 people linked to three schemes that operated across Southern California and charged clients tens of thousands of dollars to help them give birth in the United States.
The indictments charge operators and clients of three “maternity house” or “birthing house” schemes that were dismantled in March 2015 when federal agents executed 35 search warrants, which resulted from international undercover operations.
The 17 cases unsealed today contain the first-ever federal criminal charges brought against operators and customers of birth tourism businesses. The birth tourism operations not only committed widespread immigration fraud and engaged in international money laundering, they also defrauded property owners when leasing the apartments and houses used in their birth tourism schemes, according to the indictments.
These cases were investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles. Substantial assistance was provided by IRS Criminal Investigation, as well as the Irvine Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
The indictments describe birth tourism schemes in which foreign nationals, mostly from China, applied for visitor visas to come to the United States and lied about the length of their trips, where they would stay, and the purposes of their trips – which were to come to the U.S. for three months to give birth so their children would receive U.S. birthright citizenship.
“America’s way of life is not for sale,” said Joseph Macias, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Los Angeles. “HSI will aggressively target those who would make a mockery of our laws and our values to benefit and enrich themselves. No one needs to be reminded about the national security and public safety implications of visa fraud and the crimes associated with it. Anyone who would exploit our nation’s generosity and our legal immigration system should be on notice – they may end up being the ones to pay a very steep price.”
According to the indictments that charge the operators of the schemes, they coached their Chinese customers how to pass the U.S. Consulate interview in China by falsely stating that they were going to stay in the U.S. for only two weeks. Their clients were also coached to trick U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at ports of entry by wearing loose clothing that would conceal their pregnancies. The indictments also allege that the customers were directed to fly to Hawaii from China – instead of directly to Los Angeles – because it was easier to get by CBP in Hawaii. The indictments allege that many of the Chinese birth tourism customers failed to pay all of the medical costs associated with their hospital births, and the debts were referred to collection.
“These cases allege a wide array of criminal schemes that sought to defeat our immigration laws – laws that welcome foreign visitors so long as they are truthful about their intentions when entering the country,” said Nick Hanna, U.S. Attorney for the Central District California. “Statements by the operators of these birthing houses show contempt for the United States, while they were luring clients with the power and prestige of U.S. citizenship for their children. Some of the wealthy clients of these businesses also showed blatant contempt for the U.S. by ignoring court orders directing them to stay in the country to assist with the investigation and by skipping out on their unpaid hospital bills.”
Three indictments returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury charge the operators of large birth tourism operations based in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Pursuant to this week’s indictments, federal authorities this morning arrested three defendants: Dongyuan Li, 41, of Irvine; Michael Wei Yueh Liu, 53, of Rancho Cucamonga; and Jing Dong, 42, of Fontana. All three are charged with conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, international money laundering and identity theft. Liu is also charged with filing three false tax returns.
According to the indictments charging the operators, all three businesses touted the benefits of giving birth in the U.S., rather than in China, with claims of the U.S. having “the most attractive nationality”; “better air” and less pollution; “priority for jobs in U.S. 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.”
With this news, maybe President Trump will now have the ammo needed to end birthright citizen with an executive order like he said he was going to do.
The U.S. and Canada are the only 2 nations with advanced economies to allow this sort of thing.