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Chino Hills seeks to close home used by pregnant Chinese women

A website that city officials believe is associated with the house describes services such as assistance in obtaining American passports for newborns.

December 04, 2012|By Cindy Chang, Los Angeles Times
  • In 2011, a diapers box lies outside one of three townhouses in San Gabriel that operated as an unlicensed birthing center for women visiting from China.
In 2011, a diapers box lies outside one of three townhouses in San Gabriel… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

A Chino Hills residence allegedly housing women from China who want to give birth to U.S.-citizen children is on the verge of being shut down by the city after complaints about traffic and a sewage spill.

The home is on a hilltop at the end of a long driveway on Woodglen Drive, an area zoned for single family houses. City officials have issued a cease and desist order, alleging that the site is being used as a hotel in a rural residential zone. They plan to take the property owner to court.

"Who the customer base is, is not our concern," said city spokeswoman Denise Cattern. "Our concern is that it's a hotel."

A website that city officials believe is associated with the business describes a full range of services, from shopping trips for pregnant women to assistance obtaining American passports for newborns.

A 30-day stay at the Chino Hills facility, along with a month of prenatal care, costs $10,500 to $11,500, according to the Chinese-language website, www.asiamchild.com.

Asiam Child is based in Shanghai, with branches in Anhui province and Nanjing, the website says.

The property owner, Hai Yong Wu, did not return a call seeking comment. A man who left the hotel in a black BMW on Monday afternoon would not speak to reporters.

So-called birth tourism appears to be an active but largely under-the-radar industry in Southern California. One local Chinese phone book has five pages of listings for birthing centers, where women from China and Taiwan stay for a month or so before going home with their U.S.-citizen babies. When the children get older, they may return here to study, perhaps paving the way for the rest of the family to immigrate more easily.

In San Gabriel last year, code enforcement officials shut down a facility where about 10 mothers and seven newborns were staying.

Federal immigration officials say there is no law prohibiting pregnant women from entering the U.S. But obtaining a visa through fraud would be a crime, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Chino Hills officials have notified federal authorities about the residence. Kice said she could not confirm whether ICE is investigating.

Neighbors report seeing groups of pregnant women walking along the quiet cul de sac. Cars from the residence sometimes drive down the street at unsafe speeds, they said.

In addition to the single-family zoning violation, the city has cited the owner for allegedly constructing additional rooms without a permit. A sewage spill estimated at 2,000 gallons also prompted a cease and desist order.

"It would be nice to have my neighborhood back. It was a quiet little street," said neighbor Sonya Valez.

On Saturday, a group called Not in Chino Hills staged a street-corner protest against the site.

"They go back," said Rossana Mitchell, a co-founder of the group. "They don't pay taxes, they don't assimilate."

cindy.chang@latimes.com

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