California ward for 'maternity tourists' shut down - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

California ward for 'maternity tourists' shut down

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SAN GABRIEL, Calif. (AP) — Authorities shut down a makeshift maternity clinic crammed with 10 newborns and a dozen Chinese women who paid as much as $35,000 to travel to Southern California to give birth to children who would automatically be U.S. citizens, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Police and city inspectors closed the converted home on March 8 in San Gabriel, a suburb east of Los Angeles, after the owner was repeatedly warned that it violated building codes, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

The home had extra rooms and some closets had been converted into bathrooms. Officials found medical supplies along with Chinese-language pamphlets on baby care.

Some babies were being cared for in what used to be the kitchen. All were examined and found to be healthy, code enforcement officer Jorge Arellano Arellano said.

U.S. law automatically entitles children born on U.S. soil to citizenship, and it is not illegal for pregnant women to visit the U.S. to give birth.

"Once the baby's born here they are able to go to school here," Arellano said.

Some Republican lawmakers have argued recently that the 14th Amendment, which grants automatic citizenship to people born on U.S. soil, should be modified to exclude children of foreign citizens. They contend the lure of U.S. citizenship for children is promoting illegal immigration.

Changing the law would curb "birth tourism" and illegal immigration, said state Assemblyman Rim Donnelly, R-Claremont.

Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, said traveling to this country to give birth is not a common practice.

"The 14th Amendment is fundamental to the U.S. and too important to change because of the practice of a few," she said "It would be a severe disservice to our nation if millions of immigrants are painted with the same brush."

Dwight Chang of Arcadia, who owns the home that was closed, was fined $800 for violating building codes and operating without a business license. He denied wrongdoing.

Chang told the Tribune the women had been moved to a motel and most have left the U.S. along with their children.

Mayor David Gutierrez said he understood why some foreign citizens would wish to have their children in the U.S.

"They should certainly be commended for looking at the future welfare of their children but we need to be very careful that as a result it doesn't impact services and quality of life that we provide for U.S. residents," he said.


Information from: San Gabriel Valley Tribune


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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