The San Marino Police Department recently cited a woman leasing two local properties that were being used as maternity hotels – birthing centers for foreigners who enter the country with legal, temporary credentials and hope to give birth while in the United States, which qualifies their children as U.S. citizens.
Hua Xu, a 48-year-old female, was issued citations for operating a commercial business in a residential zone at two sites; the 2100 block of California Blvd. and the 2800 block of Lombardy Rd., according to Police Chief Tim Harrigan. Police investigators found five pregnant women at the California Blvd. location and two others on Lombardy.
Though Harrigan said the SMPD had believed at least one maternity hotel was in operation, a San Marino resident and businessman came forward and told police officers he had been as approached by one of the pregnant women who complained that the homeowners “were not living up to their end of the contract,” according to Harrigan.
“A complaint was made to the resident that those living in the homes were not receiving sufficient nutrition,” Harrigan told The Tribune. “Based upon that information, the SMPD conducted an independent investigation which included contacting both the business owner and lessee of the home. We determined they were illegally conducting a business in a residential area.”
Harrigan said that investigators learned that the five women – all of whom were from Beijing – had paid up to $27,000 apiece for three months of boarding, meals, child care and local transportation. The investigators also uncovered the existence of a website that advertised the birthing program, which is technically legal if the mothers have proper credentials to be in the United States. Each of the five women were properly documented.
“At this point, there is no law against traveling with a valid visa and while here legally, having a baby that would have United States citizenship,” said Harrigan, who does not know if the five expectant women are still in the country. “The only violation we have in this case is the operation of a business in a residential zone,” said Harrigan. “There is nothing in the state or local codes that prohibit a maternity home provided the actual structure meets local zoning requirements.”
In January, officials closed a maternity hotel in Chino Hills that catered to dozens of pregnant women. Similar facilities have been discovered in San Gabriel and Arcadia.
“At no time would the children be born in the home,” Harrigan continued. “At the time of delivery, the women would be taken to a local hospital.”
Harrigan said the SMPD will be following up at the locations and that Xu has thirty days to pay her fines.
“We are very sensitive to any violations of this code.” said Harrigan. “The treatment of the women in these homes is also a priority. We don’t want to see anyone mistreated.”
Harrigan identified the website in question as ChineseInLA.com, stating that advertisements appearing on the website offered “lodging in San Marino” and said the financial matters were handled by wire transfers. He also said that the $27,000 price tag for three months in San Marino was the highest fee investigators could find during their online research – the Four Seasons of maternity hotels, certainly not the Super 8.
The Chief also praised San Marino Police Officer Vanessa Golden, who he said “did a fantastic job. Officer Golden speaks fluent Mandarin and she was very valuable during the entire investigation,” said Harrigan.
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