Twenty people have been charged in a crackdown on businesses that help Chinese women travel to the United States to give birth to babies who automatically became American citizens.

The US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles says three people were arrested on Thursday on charges including conspiracy, visa fraud and money laundering.

More than a dozen others have also been charged in cases stemming from three so-called birth tourism businesses.

Authorities say it is the first time the US has criminally prosecuted birth tourism operators.

The businesses allegedly billed Chinese women thousands of dollars to travel to California to deliver their babies so the children automatically obtained US citizenship.

Authorities say the women hide their pregnancies and lie about details of their trips.

Federal agents raided the businesses in 2015.


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