A Chinese woman could face up to 15 years in jail for running a “birth tourism” scheme where she helped coach other Chinese women on how to trick immigration in order to give birth in the United States.
Dongyuan Li, 41, from Irvine, California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and visa fraud, the Department of Justice said in a press release on Tuesday. She now faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and is due back in court for sentencing in December.
Li is one of 19 defendants named in a series of indictments unsealed in January that contain the first-ever criminal charges against those involved in the birth tourism trade. She is the first operator involved in the scheme to plead guilty.
Li admitted that she ran a birth tourism company called You Win USA Vacation Services Corp. that operated out of both California and China from 2013 to 2015. As part of the scheme, wealthy foreign nationals — many of them from China — would pay Li’s company to help them travel and stay in the US so their children would be born US citizens.
Over 30 countries in the world, including the US, Canada, Brazil, and Mexico, offer birthright citizenship automatically.
In her plea deal, Li said You Win would help coach women on how to pass through US customs and hide their pregnancies.
Customers would lie to the US Consulate in China and say they were only planning to come to the US for two weeks. They were also advised to fly first through Hawaii, and then to California, as it would be easier to clear immigration there.
According to a January indictment, Li’s company marketed that it had over 500 Chinese customers seeking their assistance. Li had 20 apartments in Irvine that she used as part of the scheme, and she charged customers of her services between $40,000 and $80,000.
She made over $3 million in wire transfers from China.
Li was forced to hand over more than $850,000, her California residence, and several Mercedes-Benz cars as part of her plea deal.
You Win, along with other businesses charged with running similar birthing schemes, advertised that the US had “the most attractive nationality,” “better air,” and a more stable political climate than China.
“America’s way of life is not for sale,” Joseph Macias, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles, said in January.
President Donald Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration the cornerstone of his presidency, and suggested as recently as August that he was “very seriously” considering ending birthright citizenship in the US.
Source: Business Insider – Chinese woman faces up to 15 years in jail for running a ‘birth tourism’ scheme where she would coach Chinese nationals on how to bypass immigration and give birth in the US