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SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A growing number of women from China and Taiwan are coming to the Bay Area to have their babies and get U.S. Citizenship for their children. So-called “maternity homes” have popped up in Foster City, Fremont, and San Jose.
He’s a curious 2-year-old with unusual beginnings. A Taiwanese boy whose parents made sure he was born in the United States. Just like his older brother.
His parents preferred anonymity, but they told KPIX 5 by video phone from Taiwan, why it was so important for their children to be born here.
“He or she can get education in the United States,” said the father, “As well as get benefits U.S. citizens get. That’s why we decided to do it.”
They are part of a growing number of expectant couples who come to America to grab that prize: Instant U.S. citizenship for their baby. It’s a right guaranteed in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
But some say it’s exploited in what’s become a “birth tourism” industry.
Dozens of Chinese agencies advertise online package deals costing upwards of $30,000.
“That’s a pretty outrageous fee,” says Bill Hing, immigration law professor at USF. “Those are fees that people pay smugglers along the U.S. / Mexico border. I think that those folks are being taken advantage of.”
Chinese couples who can afford it believe they’re taking advantage of a better future for their children.
Expectant couples buy a four-month stay in a so-called “maternity house.” They get a bedroom in a single family home shared by other pregnant women. And all meals and transportation to doctor’s appointments and hospitals are included.
After the birth, the baby goes home with an American passport.
Parents pay their own plane tickets, tourist visas and all the doctor and hospital fees. That could be another $30,000 or so, since foreign visitors don’t have medical insurance here.
Maternity homes in Southern California drew protests from families who did not want businesses in their neighborhoods.
That pushed some homes north to the Bay Area.
In San Jose, KPIX 5 found some of those pregnant women out for a walk. They said the animosity doesn’t discourage them.
One of them, who preferred anonymity, said “a lot of reasons for to give birth in the U.S. One reason, the environment in China is not so good.”
They said they are investing in a future that promises freedom, top schools, and success. As one website promises: your child could the found of the next high tech company, like Apple.
The businesses are supposed to apply for conditional use permits, and that requires public hearings. San Jose Supervisor Kansan Chu said he was unaware of the homes until KPIX 5 contacted him. Now he’s looking at possible new ordinances to govern them.