Federal agents raided about 20 Southern California locations on Tuesday suspected of involvement in "maternity tourism" schemes offering travel and lodging services to pregnant foreign women seeking to give birth in the United States, U.S. immigration officials said.
Authorities say the so-called maternity hotels targeted in the sweep catered largely to women from China who paid $15,000 to $50,000, depending on services provided, in hopes of obtaining U.S. citizenship for their children.
The locations searched included apartment complexes and other sites in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties that were suspected of housing foreign clients, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE.
No criminal arrests were anticipated from Tuesday's raids, which were carried out by federal agents and local law enforcement, the agency said.
The U.S. Constitution grants citizenship to any child born on U.S. soil, regardless of parentage, and immigration experts say there was nothing inherently illegal about women coming from abroad to give birth to children in the United States.
But investigators are seeking evidence related to such possible criminal offenses as visa and tax fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, immigration officials said.