Anatoliy Kuzmin held out his daughter’s blue U.S. passport over a red Russian one and snapped a photo from a Florida beach.
“Woohoo! Got dual citizenship for my daughter!” he wrote on Instagram.
American citizenship for the newborn girl was the goal of Kuzmin and his Instagram-celebrity wife, who sought the help of birth-tourism services in Florida for the arrival of their first child. They are among the estimated hundreds of Russian parents who flock to the U.S. annually for warm weather, excellent medical care, and, more importantly, birthright American citizenship.
And many, like Kuzmin and his wife, stay at President Donald Trump’s properties in Florida.
While Trump rails against U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, his Florida properties have become a playground for birth tourists from Russia’s upper crust. The Daily Beast has discovered several companies are advertising rentals in Trump properties to expectant Russian parents. While the Trump Organization does not directly profit from subleases of privately owned condos, it does benefit from Russian patronage of the nearby Trump International Beach Resort. (The Trump Organization did not return requests comment.)
Many of the companies that cater to Russian birth tourists advertise their services openly and warn no one will get in trouble as long as they don’t lie on immigration paperwork.
A thriving Russian émigré community has grown around the Miami suburbs, making it a home away from home for those looking for a few months away from Russia’s bitter winters. The area’s most popular Russian deli, a mainstay for many moms on birthing forums, as well as other shops serving a taste of Eastern Europe, sit directly across the street from the Trump International Beach Resort, Trump Palace, and Trump Royale.
Some Russian parents-to-be come on the cheap, eschewing fancy packages in favor of a do-it-yourself approach from a modest Miami apartment. A no-frills, three-month stay in the Miami suburbs, complete with out-of-pocket medical bills, can cost $20,000, moms told The Daily Beast.
The Florida Trump properties are convenient options for wealthy Russians who can afford it. They are notorious for being investment properties for Russia’s hyper-wealthy, a safe place to store savings in U.S. dollars. And birth-tourism companies offer Trump apartments as part of packages costing upwards of $75,000.
SVM-MED, a Miami birth-tourism company that also boasts outposts in Moscow and Kiev, offers three tiers of packages to its clients, with the top two advertising lodging in Trump Towers. The most expensive package costs $84,700 for a Trump Tower II apartment with a gold-tiled bathtub and chauffeured Cadillac Escalade or Mercedes Benz.
Miami-Boom advertises an apartment at Trump Royale with two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. The website doesn’t list a price, but the same apartment is listed on other real-estate websites for $5,000 a month.
A third company, albeit aimed largely at Ukrainian customers, promises that Miami’s Sunny Isles suburb has excellent condominium options, “some of which, like Trump Towers, were created by American multi-billionaire Donald Trump himself!”
Another offering, from Status-Med, a company with offices in Moscow and Miami, advertises a Trump Royale penthouse apartment on its website for $7,000 a month.
Status-Med is affiliated with the Sunny Medical Center, a clinic just down the street from the Trump properties in Sunny Isles. It organizes beachside yoga, get-togethers, and medical care for expectant mothers. Owner Vera Muzyka said Trump properties are in high demand among her clients.
“And also, the name Melania has become very popular,” she added.
One Russian mom of a newborn U.S. citizen told The Daily Beast that she runs a support group for women making birthing plans without the help of a company. At any given time, 50 members of her online group are in Miami to give birth, she said. Muzyka estimated in 2014 that 40 to 60 women from former Soviet countries give birth in Miami each month.
“Our clients pay for their own medicine and other services, and spend a lot of money during their time in the county,” she said, claiming that the average client spends $40,000 to $50,000 for three months in the U.S.
Tagged shots on Instagram are often underscored with a hashtag, in Russian, of “births in Miami.” They show moms floating in swimming pools, or bulging pregnant bellies doing yoga on the beach, or, weeks later, their new infants, decked out in red, white, and blue.
Sunny Medical Center openly advertises citizenship as one of the primary benefits their clients receive. Muzyka told The Daily Beast that all the women using Sunny Medical Center’s services openly tell U.S. officials that they are coming for birth tourism.
They also warn parents to avoid applying for Medicaid, as some expectant birth tourists apparently do. Doing so, or lying on their visa paperwork, might permanently blacklist them from U.S. visa eligibility even after their child can apply for family reunification, they warn.
An employee at one Miami birth-tourism company geared toward the former USSR is awaiting trial in Florida on charges that he falsified documents. The FBI says he claimed to witness both parents signing necessary documents when he could not have done so. He has pleaded not guilty.
‘I Was Looking Particularly for Trump Towers’
Valeriya Storozheva’s first experience giving birth in Miami seven years ago was so good she came back for her next child, due this fall. Storozheva told The Daily Beast she liked the weather, the relaxed feel, and the feeling of being on vacation.
“This time, of course, we want to stay a little longer because we don’t want to go back to the [Russian] winter,” she joked.
Her U.S.-born son, now 6 years old, attends an American school in the area, while her husband and older son are flying in for vacations.
The first time, Storozheva booked her stay through a popular birth-tourism company, which gave her a driver, helped find an apartment, and arranged for a doctor. Storozheva said the people who ran the birth-tourism company had since sold it and switched to real estate, so she asked them for help finding an apartment.
“I was looking particularly for Trump Towers. My friend lived here before,” she said, referring to a fellow mom she’d met during her first pregnancy.
Seven years ago, Storozheva stayed at a similarly ritzy condo just up the street, but but she’d found it lacking.
“[Now] in the evenings, I have a great view because you have the bay, and the buildings aglow,” Storozheva said. “The building is great. No regrets.”
She posts photos of herself grabbing breakfast on the go, or videos doggie-paddling in the condo’s pool.
In the meantime, she’s found a community. Some moms message her on Instagram, where they use hashtags like “births in Miami” to publicize their posts. She meets others while getting her eyebrows done.
And, Storozheva says, she met two more moms just on her flight to Florida.
But even those who don’t pay for a full-time stay at one of the Trump-built apartments often visit the Trump International Beach Resort Miami.
One mom documented her explorations of beachfront properties including the Trump resort on Instagram. In one photo from her stay there, she shows her newborn son sleeping on his stomach. “Our little bear,” she crows.
The very next photo shows her family’s four passports: Three red, one blue.
One mom recommended Trump Palace on a popular forum, DeliveryinUSA.com, after visiting a friend.
“A building which has more Russian officials than all of Moscow,” a third post chimed in about the Trump Palace, punctuating the joke with a smiley emoji.
Laughter at Idea of Crackdown
Birth tourism is a booming industry thanks to the growing middle- and upper-class in Russia and China. These families have no plans to work in the U.S. or pay U.S. taxes as their child grows. Rather, U.S. citizenship is an extra security blanket that the wealthy give themselves after months-long vacations on Miami’s beaches. It also gives their kids a shot at financial aid at U.S. schools and easier access to jobs in the U.S.
After the child turns 21, he or she can also apply for family reunification, to get her parents and non-citizen siblings green cards to come to the U.S.
It seems like the sort of thing Trump spoke out against.
On the campaign trail, he argued that children born to undocumented parents don’t have a legal right to citizenship.
“I don’t think they have American citizenship and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers—and I know some will disagree, but many of them agree with me—and you’re going to find they do not have American citizenship,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly. “We have to start a process where we take back our country. Our country is going to hell.”
He railed against people he said came over from Mexico for a short time period, to give birth.
“Many lawyers are saying that’s not the way it is in terms of this,” Trump said. “They are saying it is not going to hold up in court. It will have to be tested but they say it will not hold up in court.”
In fact, children born to undocumented parents don’t help keep the parents in the country. That myth is perhaps most clearly illustrated in the recent case of an Oakland nurse, Maria Sanchez, who was deported last month despite having a career and three children who are U.S. citizens. Sanchez and her husband chose to take the youngest of their U.S.-born children with them to Mexico when they were deported.
Initially, potential birth tourists and agencies worried that Trump’s election would stymie their options. After the election and into the spring, articles popped up on birth-tourism forums, fearing that they would be ensnared in the “anchor baby” crackdown.
Less than two weeks after the election, leading Russian news site Lenta was among those to raise the question, but said there was no chance Trump could pass a constitutional amendment to change the policy. Russian news agency Tass noted earlier this year that combating birth tourism “will be much more difficult than simply closing entry points for illegal migrants.”
“Only the situation where the woman hides the true purpose of her visit is illegal, such as indicates that she is not coming to ‘receive medical care’ but just for ‘tourism,’” it said.
Indeed, such schemes have already ensnared birth-tourism companies across the country. Los Angeles, where birth-tourism agencies cater to a largely Chinese clientele, even created a task force to tackle the issue in 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Muzyka, the Sunny Medical Center owner, said she wasn’t worried about a change in policy.
“Donald Trump doesn’t share his plans with us,” Muzyka chuckled in Russian.
Nearly nine months into Trump’s presidency, birth-tourism agencies continue to advertise services for expecting parents. Trump stopped pushing the idea of challenging birthright citizenship, even as he doubled down on plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Nothing, however, stands in the way of birth tourists who fly business class.