(LOS ANGELES) — The unassuming home at the top of the hill in an upscale Chino Hills, Calif., neighborhood has been operating as a “maternity mansion,” charging women from China high prices to give birth in the United States, essentially buying American citizenship for their babies, according to neighbors who want the operation shut down.
An address found on AsiamChild.com, a Chinese language website advertising the American birthing experience to prospective mothers, matches with the Chino Hills residence. Packages on the site range from $5,000 to $15,000 and call the expenditure a “worthwhile investment” in order to have an American baby.
“We are trying to get the word out that we are not going to condone this type of behavior and allow this type of business to come into our family-oriented community,” said Rossana Mitchell, a 22-year resident of the city and spokeswoman for Not In Chino Hills, a group that was formed in response to the “maternity mansion.”
The 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States.
Authorities in Chino Hills began looking into the residence several months ago, after neighbors feared the numerous, heavily pregnant women they saw filtering in and out of the seven bedroom home could be part of a human trafficking ring.
Last week, the City of Chino Hills issued the foreign-based owner of the home a cease-and-desist order for allegedly operating a hotel in a residential neighborhood, which is illegal, Los Angeles ABC station KABC-TV reported.
ABCNews.com was unable to reach owner Hai Yong Wu for comment.
The website includes tips for mothers on how to hide their pregnancies from U.S. customs officers, so they can receive a visitor’s visa.
Pregnant mothers are advised to wear a dark T-shirt and use a large backpack to cover their stomachs, according to advice on the website. They are also told to not bring in any items specific to pregnant women and babies, in order to prevent suspicion.
Aside from citizenship, the website touts other perks American citizens enjoy, including free public education, better loan rates and social welfare during retirement.
“It’s so blatant and from doing my research, this is an epidemic and it’s nationwide,” Mitchell said. “It’s a way to buy citizenship. We don’t want it here in Chino Hills.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Marlena Baldacci, Emanuella Grinberg and Holly Yan, CNN
Katie Lobosco, CNN
Elizabeth Cohen and Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN