Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Chinese pregnant women come as tourists to sidestep immigration laws

Many people from other countries use all kinds of ploys to sidestep the normal immigration process. Here is what happens when the Chinese mothers-to-be enter the following three countries.

The United States

The San Gabriel, California building inspectors and police officers walked into the small row of town houses knowing that something was amiss. Neighbors had complained about the noise and a lot of pregnant women coming and going. And when the inspectors and police officers walked into the kitchen of one of the houses, they saw a row of bassinets holding several infants, with a woman acting as a nurse hovering over them. Officials said they later that could not determine exactly how many women had been living in that house.

For months, according to the officials, the house had been home to “maternity tourists,” in this case, women from China who had paid tens of thousands of dollars to deliver their babies in the United States, thereby making the infants automatically into American citizens. Officials shut down the home, sending the ten mothers who were still living there with their babies to nearby motels.

Clayton Anderson, a city inspector who shut down the house on March 9th said, “These were not women living in squalor. It was a well taken care of place and clean but there were a lot of women and babies. I have never seen anything like this before. We really couldn’t determine the exact number of people living there.”

For the past year, the debate over birthright citizenship has raged across the United States, with some political leaders calling for an end to the 14th Amendment, which gives automatic citizenship to any baby born in the United States. Much of the debate has focused on immigrants entering illegally from poor countries in Latin America. But in this particular case, the women were not only relatively wealthy, but they were actually also in the United States legally on tourist visas. Most of them had already returned to China with their new American-born babies.

Immigration experts say it is impossible to know precisely how widespread ‘maternity tourism’ is in the United States but businesses in China, Mexico and South Korea advertise packages that arrange for doctors, insurance and postpartum care in the US. Marmara, a Turkish-owned hotel on the Upper East Side in New York City, has advertised month-long ‘baby stays’ that come with a stroller.

For the most part, cases of ‘maternity tourism’ have only involved individuals. However, the discovery of the large-scale facility in the San Gabriel, California foothills raises questions about whether it was a rare phenomenon or an indication that ‘maternity tourism’ is entering a new, more institutionalized phase with more hospital-like facilities operating secretly around the United States.

The San Gabriel town houses are in a small street lined with modest houses and small apartment buildings. Signs of a makeshift maternity house were evident everywhere. In one kitchen, stacks of pictures showing a mother holding her days-old baby sat next to several cans of formula. In another, boxes of prenatal vitamins were tucked into rice cookers. Several bedroom doors had numbers on them. Some rooms were rather luxurious, for instance, had a large walk-in closet, a whirlpool and a small personal refrigerator. Such a townhouse would not be for poor ‘maternity tourists’ but rather instead for wealthy ones.

The Center for Health Care Statistics estimates that there were 7,462 births to foreign residents in the United States in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That is a small fraction of the roughly 4.3 million total births that year in the United States.

I suspect that these women go to the United States to give birth to their babies as it is an insurance policy should they need to or choose to move out of their own countries because once the babies turn twenty-one years-of-age, they would be able to petition the United States government to grant their parents permanent residence status in the US. By doing this, the parents would avoid the lengthy and not absolute successful process of being permitted to remain in the US as permanent residents.

The problem facing the US government is that the State Department, which grants tourist visas, is not permitted to deny visa applications simply because a woman coming into the United States as a tourist is pregnant.

Many women are pregnant when they visit the United States. My wife who is Japanese-born was pregnant with our first-born daughter when we visited Washington D.C. Our daughter was born in Canada as planned. However, neither she nor many other pregnant women who visit other countries while they are pregnant are doing anything in violation of the laws of the country they visit simply because they are pregnant. However, if the purpose of their visit is to make it possible for their babies to be born in a particular country so that they can later successfully petition the government into letting them move into that country as permanent residents or even later as naturalized citizens, then it is definitely wrong. It is worse than illegal immigrants sneaking into another country because it is fraud against the government and the people of the country to abuse the hospitality that countries offer to tourists. The phenomenon of coming to the U.S.(or other countries) and giving birth to their babies in that country and then leaving with the intention of later being permitted to return to that country as permanent residents is outrageous.

It is not uncommon in San Gabriel for a single residence to be home to as many as 40 people. But as in other cities, the boarders are often men, often working to send money to their families back home. That is legitimate in most cases. But some are pregnant women whose goal is to have their babies delivered in the US so that they and their families can be sponsored to enter the United States as permanent residents. The American government has to find a way to resolve this problem.

Hong Kong

Coco, a successful, big-city businesswoman from central China wanted to have her second child recently but the Chinese government and its one-child policy stood in her way. So Coco did what 40,000 other Chinese women did last year. She travelled to Hong Kong, the former British colony where China’s draconian family planning rules don’t apply, and had her baby there. It was a complicated, expensive and arduous journey, involving two, separate 35-hour train trips — the return trip, cradling her precious newborn son back home in her arms. In the end, it cost her and her husband 80,000 Chinese yuan (about $12,000). But to them, it was all worth it.

She can afford to accept the consequences in China when the Chinese authorities discover that she has more than one child. The monetary penalty is academic for a rich family.

Coco’s son when he is of the right age will have the right to reside in Hong Kong if he chooses, the right to travel freely without seeking government permission, the right to access Hong Kong’s superior education system, free medical care and other social services. If he wasn’t born in Hong Kong, he would have great difficulty getting a permit to reside and work in that part of China. Further, he couldn’t get a Hong Kong passport.

The driving force for her and her husband for her to give birth to her son in Hong Kong was to get out from under the government’s one-child policy. Because China is over populated (over a billion) their ‘one child’ policy is the only way that China can curb it expanding population. That being as it is, the policy is not as ridiculous as this particular woman has claimed. Had she remained on the mainland, she would have been made to pay a minimum fine equivalent to about US$12,500 and had she lived in a rural area, she could have faced a forced abortion.

Instead, when she completed her first trimester, she flew to Hong Kong, was examined by a doctor, and had him book her a hospital room and write her a letter that would allow her to re-enter Hong Kong to give birth when the due date arrived.

When her date approached, and she was restricted from flying under Chinese regulations, she took a 35-hour train to Shenzhen, a mainland city near Hong Kong, and stayed with relatives until she sensed she was just days away from delivering. Then she travelled to Hong Kong, (a short train-ride away) where her husband joined her, and she gave birth to a baby boy in a private hospital. She was in a room with two other expectant mothers, both from the mainland China.

Total hospital charges amounted to about 50,000 Chinese yuan (about $7,500) and other charges were close to another 30,000 yuan (about $4,500).

She said that she did all of the organization herself, but an industry of agents has developed in and around Hong Kong to cater to mainland mothers and they will do everything for them.

When asked how she felt about people in Hong Kong being upset with mainland mothers? She replied, “I can understand their irritation. But I don’t think people should blame mainland mothers. They should be blaming the mainland government. They need to change the birth control policy. That doesn’t in my opinion justify her act. Her statement is hogwash. Just because she is rich is no excuse for having a second child when millions of other mothers like her are prohibited from having a second child in order to curb the expansion of China’s population.

As more and more women from mainland China travel to Hong Kong to give birth, the city’s public and private hospitals are now bursting at the seams. And doctors warn that the quality of Hong Kong’s neonatal health care is now at risk. The number of doctors and nurses remains the same, but with the number of deliveries increasing at a rate of 5,000 per year, the hospital services are strained.

Of key concern to the authorities in Hong Kong are the system’s neonatal intensive care units which are currently overloaded, a situation which could put infant lives at stake because hospital beds are in short supply and obstetricians are overworked. Proof of that is that in 2010, mothers from mainland China accounted for fully half of the 80,000 births that occurred in Hong Kong. That means that, on average, more than 100 mainland mothers gave birth to children in Hong Kong every day that year.

To stem that rising tide, all eight of Hong Kong’s public hospitals finally announced they will no longer accept bookings from mainland mothers for the rest of the year. At the same time, doctors were appealing to Hong Kong’s government to step in with long-term solutions.

At the same time, Hong Kong residents are up in arms. Two different local groups have mounted Facebook pages calling attention to the crisis. One is called The League to Protect the Rights of Local Expectant Mothers.

An official with that organization said, “We’re worried about our hospitals being overcrowded, doctors and nurses overworked, and ourselves and our own babies not being able to receive the level of service we deserve. About 70 per cent of the mothers in the hospital were from the mainland.”

The people in Hong Kong have good reason to be concerned about the influx of maternal tourists coming into Hong Kong just about the time when their babies are due to be born.

Many people in Hong Kong believe that mainland Chinese mothers are coming not due to the one-child policy, but to ensure their children benefit from Hong Kong’s enviable freedoms and social welfare system. There are undeniable benefits for those born in the territory. A Hong Kong birth certificate and passport are regarded by many as documents that can change one’s destiny. Without these benefits that are acquired in Hong Kong, the mainland Chinese people are stuck in China where the benefits are far less than what the citizens of Hong Kong have.

What it really comes down to is that these expectant mothers are simply attempting (and with some success) to bypass the normal immigration process to enter a country of their own choosing by having their babies delivered in Hong Kong.


The law that permits anyone born in Canada is automatically Canadian needs adjustment. That is because Canada’s modern welfare state is open to exploitation by ‘birth tourists.’

The automatic right generally applies to babies born to Canadian citizens or other persons who have a right to live and work in Canada. Currently it also applies to tourists from other countries who purposely come to Canada to give birth to their babies in Canada so that their babies will automatically become Canadian citizens by virtue of their births talking place in Canada. All other countries that take in immigrants base their citizenship on blood, and require at least one parent to be a citizen, or to have lived there for a certain time, in order to confer citizenship on the child. They do this so that the child can take advantage of Canada’s health care and education, and later sponsor his or her parents when he or she turns 18.
In my opinion, automatic citizenship by place of birth is outdated in this respect. When we established that legal approach, specifically in the 1947 Citizenship Act, most immigrants, when they came to Canada, were not returning from where they came from. It was their intention to remain in Canada.

Nowadays, foreign mothers who want their babies to be born in Canada, fly in for a couple of weeks, give birth to their child and then they fly back home after having established a basis for the family to become Canadian permanent residents when their baby (who is now a Canadian citizen) can sponsor his or her parents who later wish to move to and live in Canada.

Canada needs to amend its Regulations so that Canada doesn’t become vulnerable to people of other countries who want to cut corners to get permanent residency in Canada.

The problem of birth tourism, or ‘passport babies,’ has recently come to the attention of immigration officials in reports of a scam in China, in which crooked immigration consultants coach pregnant women on how to avoid detection of their pregnancy at the border, and then how to lie low until they give birth to their baby who will then automatically becomes a Canadian baby.

It is a problem to hospitals that get stuck paying the cost of a foreign visitor’s delivery of her newborn child. It is a blatant abuse of Canada’s generosity.
Birth tourism (for want of a better choice of words) include Chinese women giving birth to their babies in Vancouver, and women from French-speaking African countries or the Middle East giving birth to their babies in Montreal. Some of these pregnant mothers also come from Latin American countries in which there is no visa requirement for them to enter Canada.

China is of particular concern to the Immigration authorities especially since the pregnant mothers are generally wealthy than mothers of other countries are and for this reason, they want to move to a westernized country like Canada that has porous cross-border procedures.

Since provinces issue birth certificates and do not ask parents for their immigration status, a Canadian birth certificate may no longer be proof of Canadian citizenship. As a result, passport applications will turn into immigration investigations, and every Canadian will have to prove the status of their parents.
The reason for this is how are Canadian immigration authorities going to know if a person born in Canada had a mother who was a birth tourist based only on a birth certificate? This procedure could then determine if the so-called citizen is entitled a citizenship document and/or a passport? Right now, the immigration authorities cannot distinguish between people who are born here and didn’t have immigration status, and were simply tourist babies, and the legitimate citizens. This would mean that the only way around this is to collect everybody’s family tree and require proof of the parent’s immigration status at the time of their birth to see if they really qualify for citizenship and a passport. Obviously, that isn’t going to happen.

There is a relatively simple way to deal with this problem. If someone is here illegally, then they don’t have residency. If they’re under a deportation order, they don’t have residency. If they’re just passing through as a short-term visitor or remaining for a short time as a visitor or tourist, they don’t have residency. This should mean that they would not be able to automatically have their newborn babies become Canadian citizens, especially when they are coming to Canada and having their babies born in Canada with the intention of circumventing Canada’s immigration and citizenship laws.


There is one sure way to stop this inappropriate practice and that is for each country to pass a law that states that unless the mother of a newborn child is a permanent resident or citizen of that country, her baby who is born in that country that its mother is visiting will not be considered a citizen of that country unless he or she turns 21 and applies for citizenship or permanent residency like every other foreigner or refugee who makes such an application.

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