file photo: a group of central american migrants is questioned about their children’s health after surrendering to u.s. border patrol agents south of the u.s. mexico border fence in el paso
In 2023, US Customs and Border Protection reported a staggering 2.5 million instances of detaining or turning away migrants seeking to enter the US from Mexico at the southern border. It’s right to call the numbers as unprecedented.
But it’s shocking to find Chinese migrants as the fastest growing group among them. For years, millions of Chinese used to enter the US with a visa that allowed them to work, study or visit. But in the last few years, those visas have been increasingly difficult to secure due to tensions.
The US granted 2.2 million temporary visas to Chinese nationals in 2016. But the numbers fell to 160,000 in 2022. Journalist Sharyn Alfonsi recently reported on a gap at the end of a border fence 60 miles east of San Diego. She is a correspondent for 60 Minutes on CBS News.
Escaping a repressive political climate and sluggish economy
The illegal entryway has become the new route for migrants seeking to enter the US for a new life. Alfonsi spoke to a college graduate, who said his trip from China had taken 40 days. He travelled through numerous countries, hoping to find work in Los Angeles.
Thirty minutes later, a smuggler’s SUV dropped another group at the same spot, and half-an-hour later, another group, the journalist noted. Over four days, hundreds of migrants of different nationalities passed through the hole and into the US, unchecked, she noted.
Last year, US authorities reported 37,000 Chinese citizens were apprehended entering illegally from Mexico – 50 times more than a couple of years earlier. Many of the migrants said they sought to escape China’s repressive political climate and sluggish economy.
How did the gap go viral among Chinese migrants?
How did all these migrants know about the particular entryway into California? TikTok is the answer, shockingly. Posts on the social media platform carry step-by-step instructions for hiring smugglers and detailed directions to the hole, reported CBS News.
The migrants entering legally were eventually driven to a detention facility near San Diego. Background checks and interviews followed. Typically within 72 hours, people get released into the US and can begin the process of filing an asylum claim.
Does China take back its people not granted asylum?
Alfonsi spoke to Jacqueline Arellano, who has volunteered on the border for eight years offering humanitarian aid to migrants. She answered the journalist’s question: “These people want to be picked up by border patrol. Why isn’t this happening at a port of entry?”
Arellano highlighted that there are barriers to people being able to seek asylum at a port of entry, despite the process being much safer and more efficient. One such barrier is “CBP One”, an app that allows people to make an appointment to enter the US through a legal route.
The system is “glitchy” and there is reportedly a months-long waiting time to secure an appointment at a border crossing. The next question: If someone is not granted asylum, does China take them back? Read on for the answer.
Based on the team of journalists’ review of official data, there are at least 36,000 Chinese nationals who have been ordered by US courts to leave the country. But China is notorious for not taking back its people and the US can’t force Beijing to accept them.