By Briana Vannozzi
The women arrive on tourist visas with money to spend, a pregnancy well underway and the sole purpose of giving birth to their baby on U.S. soil. The controversial and often underground practice is known as birth tourism. It ensures the child the rights and benefits of dual citizenship in America and affords their parents the right to apply for residency in the future — should they need it.
A recent investigation by NJ Spotlight unveiled a hospital in Secaucus that’s been marketing its services to Russian women online, enticing them to spend thousands on travel packages to give birth in New Jersey.
“It seems that they are really promoting baby travelocity as a fun time and according to the literature you’d have access to New York City and the best shows and the best shopping and the best places to stay,” said Sen. Joseph Vitale.
According to the investigation, a company within Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center called “AmeriMama” touts top notch health care at the Hudson County site and offers to coordinate medical services while helping the family settle into a comfortable lifestyle for up to half a year. The website has since been taken offline, but the Facebook page — all in Russian — still lives.
Industry insiders tell NJTV News this practice is growing throughout the U.S., it’s lucrative and hard to prove a foreigner’s intent for traveling to America. Questions to New Jersey’s Department of Health about current regulations in place to oversee these markets went unanswered today, but a spokesperson did tell us that, “The Department of Health does not oversee how hospitals recruit patients. Hospitals recruiting international patients is a national practice.”
The New Jersey Hospital Association tells NJTV News it’s not an issue it’s ever tracked or discussed as a policy matter but confirmed, “…in a very general sense it’s not unusual for U.S. hospitals to care for international patients. There’s global demand for the services delivered by U.S. hospitals.”
“For someone who wants to come from another country to get cancer care or some other treatment because they just can’t get it from their country or the best doctor is here, God bless, they should be able to come and they do,” Vitale said.
The difference here, according to state Sen. and Health Committee Chair Vitale is what appears to be a backdoor, money making scheme to take advantage of the system.
Representatives for Meadowlands Hospital did not return our requests for an interview today. Sen. Vitale says he plans to push for increased oversight from a state level and he wasn’t surprised to learn of the recruiting measure. The hospital has come under fire several times in recent years for unscrupulous business practices.