by Joe Guzzardi
June 20, 2011
A pregnant woman’s journey from a remote village in China to an American birthing center is geographically long and arduous. But skilled middlemen well-schooled in the loopholes of U.S. immigration policy can make her travels much easier. The woman’s mission, to deliver an American-born child with all the privileges associated with citizenship status, is a priceless commodity that makes whatever risks she may take worthwhile.
Wherever people who yearn to migrate to American may reside, eager “consultants” will, for a fee, provide the necessary training to increase their chances of success. Traditionally, these intermediaries have thrived through newspaper advertisements, leaflets distributed in public places and word of mouth. More recently, they offer their services—sometimes above board and quasi-legitimate but often unscrupulous and with criminal intent—over the Internet.
Since the proliferation of U.S. birthing centers has been much in the news, it’s worthwhile to study how the process begins. In Shanghai for example, an entrepreneurial married couple established a business to hook up pregnant women with Chinese-owned, U.S.-based hospitals that offer care provided by other Chinese speakers. For a mere $1,500, everything is arranged including shopping and sightseeing trips. The women, responsible for getting their own visas, have to cover all costs incurred in their travel and during their four month stateside stay. According to the Shanghai couple, a former marketing director and a former television producer, they have helped between 500 and 600 mothers give birth to American babies since 2005.
But agencies do much more than simply provide the basics. A recent story published in a Chinese news outlet titled “China’s ‘Born in the USA’ Frenzy” outlines a much more troubling picture that begins with the birth tourists’ fraudulent visa application.
Chinese national Liu Li, six months pregnant, followed the instructions of her middleman to a tee. Prior to her Embassy interview, Li carefully chose her clothes and memorized all the U.S. tourist spots so as to seem just another Chinese woman on a shopping trip. Once at the airport, Li held her handbag in front of her stomach exactly as she had been coached to do. Once through customs, Li proceeded to her prearranged U.S. hospital facility to eventually give birth. Li, and other pregnant women across the globe who come to the U.S. for birthing purposes, count on fraudulent visa applications to enter the country.
Without fraud, birth tourism couldn’t exist. Shutting it down would be easy to do and is a step that the federal government should immediately take. If someone comes to the United States deceptively claiming to be a “tourist” as most of the pregnant women do, they are guilty of fraud pursuant to the federal statue “False Statement in Application and Use of Passport” (18 U.S.C. § 1542), a felony which for first time offenders carries a fine and/or imprisonment for up to ten years. The perpetrator is subject to immediate deportation.
When it comes to enforcing federal immigration law, the government is often paralyzed. But in clear-cut cases of fraud like the ones involved in birth tourism, once a pattern of enforcement is established and violators are prosecuted, the problem will quickly resolve itself.
Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns—mostly about immigration and related social issues – since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns have frequently been syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected].