'That Piece of Paper Is All They Care About'

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china-us-maternity-jan-2013.jpg Pregnant women from China shop for baby products at a department store in a Los Angeles suburb, Jan. 31, 2013.

The recent closure by Los Angeles police of a confinement home for new mothers for violation of zoning restrictions shone a rare spotlight on a booming new industry supporting a wave of mainland Chinese mothers traveling to the United States to give birth in recent years.

A worker in a Los Angeles-based immigration law firm surnamed Liu said the "maternity hotel," which catered to women wanting the traditional month's rest with special food following childbirth, was one of many catering to Chinese mothers:

I know that a lot of people who ran these rest homes have simply switched their business license to a guest-house, and are carrying on as before. The main reason for this is that there is still a market; there is still demand. There are so many people wanting to come to the U.S. to give birth.

The parents might not have the right to remain in the United States, but if their child is born here they will be a U.S. citizen, and that piece of paper is the only thing they care about. They believe that things will be very different for them after they get that piece of paper, because when they send their kid to study in the U.S. later on, they can save huge amounts on tuition fees.

In having their baby in America, they are already planning ahead for their child's education. Once their kid has U.S. citizenship, the tuition fees are far lower than for international students. There is a huge difference.

As far as I know, there are other business opportunities [linked to this trend]. For example, photography and video, as well as taxi services. The mothers often want photos with their babies as a souvenir, so they go to nearby bridal salons to use their photography studios, or they ask the photographer to take photos of them elsewhere.

The taxi companies are similar. Women who came to the U.S. to give birth would always be driven around in minibuses laid on by the confinement home, but this makes them a bit too conspicuous, and arouses suspicion among residents in the local community.

So now they have taken to using the taxi companies, so it's hard to even find a cab anywhere in the vicinity of these places.

Reported by Xiao Rong for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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