VIDEO - Birth tourism brings Russian baby boom to Miami - NBC News

Oleysa Suhareva's baby became an American citizen by being born in Miami. Courtesy Oleysa Suhareva

Reshetova came to Miami to have her first child, hiring an agency to help arrange her trip. The services — which can include finding apartments and doctors and obtaining visas — don't come cheap. She expects to pay close to $50,000, and some packages run as high as $100,000. Bokeria says some landlords ask for six months rent up front.

One firm, Miami Mama, says it brings about 100 Russian and Russian-speaking clients to the U.S. per year, 30 percent of them repeat clients. The owners are Irina and Konstantin Lubnevskiy, who bought Miami Mama after using the firm to have two American children themselves.

The couple says they counsel clients to be completely transparent with U.S. immigration officials that they're expecting.

"We tell every client, 'You have the documents, you have to tell the truth. This is America. They like the truth here,'" Konstantin said.

"I would like the American people to understand they don't have to worry," he added. "Those who come here want to become part of the American people."

But Miami Mami has drawn scrutiny from law enforcement. In June, it was raided by the FBI, and an employee was convicted of making false statements on passport applications. The owners say they knew nothing about it, fired the worker and their business license was renewed.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the case, and the FBI said it could not discuss "an active investigation."

There is no official data on birth tourism in the United States. The Center for Immigration Studies, which wants stricter limits on immigration, estimates there are 36,000 babies born in the U.S. to foreign nationals a year, though the numbers could be substantially lower. Florida says births in the state by all foreign nationals who live outside the United States have jumped 200 percent since 2000.

Customs and Border Protection says there are no laws governing whether pregnant foreign nationals can enter the country or give birth here.

"However, if a pregnant woman or anyone else uses fraud or deception to obtain a visa or gain admission to the United States, that would constitute a criminal act," the agency said.

When federal agents raided California "maternity hotels" catering to Chinese clients in 2015, authorities said in court papers that some of the families falsely claimed they were indigent and got reduced hospital rates.

In Miami, the Jackson Health System said 72 percent of international maternity patients — who represented 8 percent of all patients giving birth last year — pay with insurance or through a pre-arranged package.

Reshetova said she understands the concerns some have about birth tourism, because it's also an issue in Russia.

"But I pay by myself," she said. "I pay with my money, bring it here to America. I'm not going to take something to America.

"I don't know what my daughter will choose in future. But if I can spend money — my money — for her choice, why not?"

Cynthia McFadden and Sarah Fitzpatrick reported from Miami, and Tracy Connor from New York. Anna Schecter contributed reporting from New York, and Natasha Lebedeva from Washington.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/birth-tourism-brings-russian-baby-boom-miami-n836121