On June 30, 2020, You Win USA ringleader and Chinese national, Chao “Edwin” Chen was sentenced in absentia to 37 months in federal prison for operating a large-scale birth tourism scheme out of Orange County, California. In June 2016, Chen pleaded guilty to visa fraud, marriage fraud and filing a false tax return. Soon after the plea, Chen fled to China where he remains a fugitive.
You Win USA marketed towards well-off pregnant foreign nationals in China, boasting benefits such as free education from grade school to high school, less pollution, priority for high paying U.S. jobs, and “an easier way” for the whole family to immigrate to the United States. Dongyuan Li, her husband, Qiang Yan, and Chen coached their clients on how to successfully misrepresent their true intentions when at U.S. ports of entry and how to often enter without the pregnancy being detected.
The scheme was run out of 20 apartments in Irvine and charged between $40,000 to $80,000 per customer. In just over two years, You Win USA received $3 million in international wire transfers from China. It also bragged that they had “served” more than 500 birth tourism customers, largely Chinese government employees.
These cases helped spur the U.S. Department of State to change the official rules for issuing travel visas to the United States in January 2020. The change states that seeking to enter the United States for the express purposes of having a child, who would then receive U.S. citizenship, is an “impermissible basis for the issuance of a B nonimmigrant visa.” Such loopholes in our birthright citizenship policies allow for widespread abuse, often at great cost to U.S. taxpayers. In 2015, foreign-born mothers accounted for 22 percent of Medicaid births in the United States. It is estimated that a total of at least 33,000 birth tourists come to the U.S. annually.
The Trump Administration has expressed its desire to curtail birth tourism. However, the passage of legislation is required in order to limit birthright citizenship to the offspring of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) took a minor step in that direction and recently introduced the Ban Birth Tourism Act, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate loopholes that encourage birth tourism. The bill would codify a rule issued in January by the state department. In a press release, Sen. Blackburn stated, “Our nation’s citizenship is not for sale to those who pay to come here and give birth.”
The systematic exploitation of birthright citizenship must come to an end. Restrictions to visitor visas are not enough to combat the abuse. Congress must pass legislation that truly defines the scope of the citizenship clause and abolishes birthright citizenship for the children of temporary visitors and illegal aliens.
Until they do, the only option is to instigate a legal case to proceed through the courts and clarify whether these children are to be considered citizens at birth.