US & Canada

Chinese woman pleads guilty in 'birth tourism' case

A newborn baby's hand Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dongyuan Li trained clients in how to bypass US immigration

A Chinese woman has pleaded guilty in the US to federal charges of running a "birth tourism" scheme for Chinese nationals who paid so their children would be born American citizens.

Dongyuan Li admitted her company assisted wealthy Chinese nationals in getting to the US to give birth.

Ms Li would give clients training on how to bypass US immigration control and hide their pregnancies.

She amassed more than $3m (£2.4m) in wire transfers.

Ms Li, who is due to be sentenced in December, could face up to 15 years in jail.

What was the scheme?

Ms Li admitted that between 2013 and 2015, her company You Win USA Vacation Services would charge Chinese nationals - including government officials - between $40,000 and $80,000 for coaching in how to have a baby in the US.

With that came the benefits of American citizenship.

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Media captionA 2015 report on "birth tourism" raids in California

On its website, the company boasted more than 500 customers. It said that being American was the "most attractive nationality" and it would ensure "priority for jobs in US government".

Ms Li told clients to initially fly from China to Hawaii due to the belief it would be easier to get past US customs. From there they could fly to Los Angeles where they would be housed in apartments.

She also admitted that the clients were coached on how to get through the US consulate interview in China, including by falsely stating that they were going to stay in the US for two weeks.

In reality, they planned to stay for up to three months to give birth.

What are the charges?

Ms Li pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and one count of visa fraud.

As part of her plea deal with federal authorities, Ms Li gave up assets including $850,000, her house worth more than $500,000 and several Mercedes Benz cars.

Why was it illegal?

While it is not illegal to visit the US and give birth, making false visa claims is.

Authorities said Ms Li was promoting the benefits of having babies in the US, which would include helping to get family members immigration rights.

US President Donald Trump has talked of revoking birthright citizenship.

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