Just as President Donald Trump revived the suggestion of ending birthright citizenship, a policy practiced by few other developed countries, a Chinese national pleaded guilty to federal charges of running a "birth tourism" racket. Dongyuan Li, 41, admitted that she used to cater to Chinese nationals to get their newborn U.S. citizenship. The Chinese nationals paid huge sums to Li, ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 for the ‘birth tourism’ scheme. In her plea agreement, Li admitted that her company ‘You Win USA Vacation Services’ helped pregnant foreign nationals to travel to the US to give birth.

According to the company's website, at least 500 Chinese birth tourism customers availed its services. Those customers were housed in 20 flat in Irvine, south of Los Angeles, said the officials. Li had amassed $3 million through wire transfers from China. The company instructed the customers to follow a series of covert steps in order to conceal their pregnancies and bypass US immigration control. The steps included taking two flights, one from China to Hawaii and another from Hawaii to Los Angeles. They were specifically told to list the Trump International Hotel in Honolulu as their destination during the stay in Hawaii.

Li faces imprisonment up to 15 years and she has agreed, as part of her plea deal, to forfeit, a residence worth more than $850,000, and several Mercedes-Benz vehicles. She will be sentenced for the charges on December 16. While the practice of getting US citizenship for tourists’ children is legal on an individual basis, the mothers in this case lied in the visa application and worked with an organized scheme to have their children in the U.S., which is illegal.

In August, President Trump said that he was looking into birthright citizenship ‘very seriously’, suggesting he would do away with it. Speaking to reporters, as he departed the White House, President Trump said birthright citizenship was “frankly ridiculous.” “We’re looking at it very, very seriously,” he said, calling the practice a “magnet for illegal immigration”. The common argument is that the 14th Amendment automatically grants children born in the country U.S. citizenship, but the practice has never been challenged and thus has never been subjugated to legal review.

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Updated: Wed, Oct 2nd 2019 @ 4:50pm EDT