A Chinese woman sentenced for operating a “birth tourism” agency in California is facing deportation after serving less than a year in prison.
Dongyuan Li ended up being released from prison Monday after what prosecutors felt was a far too-lenient sentence of ten months in prison after she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and one count of visa fraud.
For two years, the 41-year-old Chinese national ran her business in Orange County, California which helped more than 500 pregnant Chinese women travel to America to give birth so their children would receive US citizenship, CNN reported.
The You Win USA birth tourism agency coached clients on how to lie on their visa applications to secure temporary visas which allowed them into the country where they stayed past the expiration date to give birth. Meanwhile, they reportedly stayed in upscale apartments in California for up to three months.
Li ended up earning millions in the process until she was arrested in January. After pleading guilty, Li was held in federal prison and was sentenced Monday to 10 months, but was released later as she had already served the time.
“My client admitted her role in VISA fraud. She didn’t want to go to trial, she accepted an offer from the government and took it, accepted responsibility,” Tom O’Brien, Li’s defense attorney, told reporters.
“Today the government was asking for additional years in custody and we’re pleased and honored that Judge Selna listened to our arguments and agreed with us that 10 months is enough time for the offense she committed,” O’Brien said.
But prosecutors felt the sentence was not enough and were pushing for 33 months behind bars.
“This is not the sentence we were expecting. It’s disappointing,” US Attorney Charles Pell said.
“We will now pursue deportation since we can show that the current visa she has was derived from her husband who committed fraud to gain his visa,” Daniel Showalter, a Special Agent within Homeland Security Investigations, said.
“I don’t think we’re going to let the sentence sway us from doing what we do,” he said, noting that agents would continue to investigation birth tourism cases.
Two of Li’s properties, six vehicles, more than $1 million from bank accounts and “10 gold bars, 10 gold coins and various gold jewelry,” were seized by the US government, Showalter said.
“She was living in an exclusive area of Irvine in a house with housekeepers, her numerous Mercedes (sedans,)” Showalter explained about Li’s home which was worth $2.1 million.
“We do need to send the message that defrauding our immigration system for profit will not be tolerated and if you do so, you do so at your own peril,” Showalter told CNN. “We will prosecute you and seize your proceeds, bank accounts, vehicles, houses.”
President Trump has indicated that he would like to end birthright citizenship which he called “ridiculous.”
“We’re looking at that very seriously,” Trump told reporters in August. “Birthright citizenship, where you have a baby on our land — walk over the border, have a baby, and congratulations, the baby’s now a U.S. citizen!’ We are looking at birthright citizenship very seriously It’s, frankly, ridiculous.”
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