Maternity hotel opponents protest as court hearing is postponed
About a dozen protesters chanting “Not here, not anywhere” marched in front of a San Bernardino County courthouse Thursday morning as a judge prepared to hear arguments over whether to shut down an alleged Chino Hills maternity hotel.
The Chino Hills facility appears to have ceased operating, but city officials are seeking a court order to shut it down permanently. On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Keith Davis gave the city more time to serve papers on one of its owners, Hai Yong Wu.
John Cotti, an attorney for the city, said Wu may be in China. He said he recently made contact with Wu’s attorney, though neither Wu nor his attorney were in court Thursday.
Davis extended a temporary restraining order against the alleged hotel and scheduled the next hearing for Feb. 19.
The hilltop mansion on Woodglen Drive allegedly housed women from China who traveled to California to give birth so their babies would be American citizens.
In a Dec. 7 court filing, Chino Hills officials describe a seven-bedroom house divided into 17 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms, with mothers and their babies staying in 10 of the rooms.
The owners did not obtain permits to remodel the property, nor were they allowed to operate a business in a residential zone, the complaint stated. City officials who inspected the home said conditions inside were dangerous, with exposed wiring, missing smoke alarms and holes in the bedroom floors.
Neighbors complained of cars speeding in and out of the mansion's driveway. In September, about 2,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled down the hill because of an overloaded septic system.
Thursday’s protesters were from a group called Not In Chino Hills, whose earlier demonstrations drew attention to the Woodglen facility. They say shutting down one hotel is not enough. They hope to end the birth tourism industry, which is widespread in the San Gabriel Valley and also exists among South Koreans in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.
Federal immigration officials say there is no law preventing pregnant women from traveling to the United States. The women typically enter on tourist visas and stay in the maternity hotels for several months before giving birth and returning home with the infant.
“They’re bringing over Chinese women to buy citizenship,” said one protester, Molly Welch, who lives near the Woodglen house. “They should pay and go through the process, just like our forefathers did.”
-- Cindy Chang
Photo: Fran Martinez, front, and other protesters gather outside San Bernardino County Superior Court Thursday as a judge hears a motion for a preliminary injunction against a Chino Hills maternity hotel. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times