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San Gabriel Cracks Down on 'Birthing Tourism'

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The fourteenth amendment states it clearly: A person born on U.S. soil is a full-fledged citizen subject to state and federal law for better and worse.

This direct path to citizenship has lent itself to a shady business model that prompted the city of San Gabriel to shut down at least one townhouse serving as a makeshift maternity ward for 10 newborns and 12 Chinese nationals citing building code violations.

"The issue for us is not really with (immigration status)," city code enforcement official Jorge Arellano explained the Whittier Daily News. "It was shut down in this case because of the building code violations and operating a business without a license."

The women paid about $35,000 each to travel to give birth on U.S. soil, suspected Arellano.

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Five converted row townhouses in the 1300 block of Palm Avenue have served as makeshift wards for what officials call "maternity tourism" catering to wealthy Taiwanese, Chinese and Koreans, according to the Whittier Daily News.

The number of babies born through "birthing tourism" is purported to be small. But there are no statistics tracking the number of babies born to maternity tourists.

The owner of the house denied any wrongdoing, stating that the women and babies had moved to a nearby motel. He was fined $800.

It is perfectly legal to give birth while in the United States on a tourist visa, explained law professors to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Similar operations have been uncovered in Hancock Park, Hacienda Heights and Rowland Heights over the past decade.

John North filed this report for KABC: