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San Gabriel shuts down "maternity tourists" operation *UPDATED

*UPDATED 3.24.11

The discovery of a maternity ward in San Gabriel catering to Chinese foreign nationals intent on birthing U.S. citizen children has sparked a debate on immigration, the Pasadena Star-News is reporting. In a follow-up to his investigation yesterday of a makeshift birthing center with 10 newborns and 12 Chinese nationals, reporter Adolfo Flores spoke with various politicians about the issue. 

In the United States, the issue of birthright citizenship has recently flared on a national level. Earlier this year bills were introduced in Congress that would change the 14th Ammendment, which mandates that anyone born on U.S. soil is a citizen (unlike some other countries where it depends upon the citizenship of the parents.)  For more on the subject Multi-American blog took an in-depth look at how other countries deal with citizenship, prospect of changing the laws, and the history of the policy.

Congresswoman Judy Chu told the Star-News that she expects the House to take up the issue again this term. She emphasizes that the birthing ward was the exception, and the actual number of people who intentionally come to the United States to give birth are negligible compared with the total number of births in the country.  "The 14th Amendment is fundamental to the U.S. and too important to change because of the practice of a few," Chu told the Star-News. "I think the practice is far from the norm and it would be a severe disservice to our nation if millions of immigrants are painted with the same brush."

The LA Times also followed the Star-News with a post this morning on their blog about the maternity ward.

"The people were sitting and eating at a table, all the babies were in bassinets with a nurse attending to them," Jennifer Davis, a community development director for the city of San Gabriel told the Times. The building was shut down not because the women were having babies in the United States, which is not illegal, but because of building code violations.

"They had moved walls around without proper permits; they did interior work that can sometimes create unsafe environments afterward," Davis told the Times. "And it's a business in a residential neighborhood. They are not permitted to operate there."


San Gabriel officials discovered a "makeshift maternity ward with 10 newborns and about 12 Chinese nationals crammed into an illegally converted townhouse," the Pasadena Star-News is reporting.

Authorities assume the women came to the United States in order to give their children the opportunity to be U.S. citizens, which is authomatically granted to all inviduals born here. They told the Star-News that the women paid as much as $35,000 for entry, travel, and the maternity service.

"I've never seen anything as big as this," San Gabriel officer Jorge Arellano told the Star-News.  "The issue for us is not really with (immigration status). It was shut down in this case because of the building code violations and operating a business without a license."

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