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L.A. to crack down on 'birthing tourism'

Los Angeles may take action against so-called maternity hotels, where pregnant women from other countries wait to deliver babies that will be born as U.S. citizens.

By Dan WhitcombReuters / January 29, 2013

A diaper box sits in front of a group of town homes in San Gabriel, Calif. that authorities say were illegally modified into a maternity ward. Los Angeles County is discussing a crackdown on so-called 'birthing hotels' and 'birthing tourism.'

Sarah Reingewirtz / San Gabriel Valley Tribune / AP / File

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Los Angeles

A Los Angeles official moved on Tuesday to crack down on so-called maternity hotels he said have sprung up across parts of Southern California as pregnant women travel to the United States in a growing "birthing tourism" trend.

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Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe asked colleagues to approve a series of steps designed to ultimately close the hotels - typically single-family homes carved into bedrooms where visiting women pay to stay in anticipation of giving birth to a child who will be born a U.S. citizen.

"His intent here with this motion is not to regulate these maternity hotels, it's to eliminate them," Knabe's spokeswoman, Cheryl Burnett, said following a Board of Supervisors meeting.

"These are really underground money-making schemes that attract women to the U.S. to have their babies," she said.

The issue of maternity tourism bubbled to the surface in recent months when residents of an upscale Los Angeles suburb protested against what they said was a maternity hotel operating in their neighborhood to host pregnant women from China. They complained it caused sanitation and other issues.

The U.S. Constitution grants citizenship to any child born on U.S. soil, regardless of parentage, and immigration experts said there was nothing inherently illegal about women coming from abroad to give birth to children in the country.

Burnett said that Knabe's action was directed at zoning and health and safety issues associated with the hotels, noting that county officials have no jurisdiction over immigration laws. She said U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement would be asked to determine how the women were entering the country.

Burnett said the board of supervisors was expected to approve the motion next week, directing a number of county agencies to investigate the hotels. It also orders the county counsel to draft zoning ordinances that would put them out of business in Los Angeles County.

NEIGHBOR COMPLAINTS

Last month residents in an upscale neighborhood of Chino Hills protested a large hilltop home that was found to have been divided up into 17 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms.

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