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Updated February 6th, 2024 at 18:36 IST

Escaping Xi: Chinese Citizens Illegally Cross US-Mexico Border to Flee Dictatorship Back at Home

All of these migrants cite similar reasons: economic hardship is now a secondary factor for them; freedom is the primary aspect.

Digital Desk
A Chinese immigrant enters the US from a gap in border fencing 60 miles east of San Diego.
A Chinese immigrant enters the US from a gap in border fencing 60 miles east of San Diego. | Image:CBS News
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Washington: More and more Chinese citizens are fleeing their country with the aim of escaping Chinese President Xi Jinping’s communist authoritarian regime and seeking refuge in other countries. Among them, most are fleeing to the United States, as, after COVID, most were left with a scene of economic gloom in China. The journey of these Chinese migrants involves dangerous routes and includes desperate measures to escape what they perceive as an increasingly ‘repressive’ political regime under Jinping.

Among them is the story of a woman who, speaking to CBS News, said that after being devastated by the economic fallout from China's strict COVID lockdown measures, she made the decision to leave her children behind with relatives and immigrate to the United States via Mexico. 

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Growing Trend of Escaping China

According to reports, the Chinese woman's story is not unique; in fact, she is part of a growing trend, with Chinese migrants now constituting one of the fastest-growing groups attempting to cross into the US from Mexico, and the numbers are rising. Last year alone, US Customs and Border Protection reported arresting over 37,000 Chinese citizens attempting to enter the country illegally, an increase from just two years prior. 

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All of these migrants cite similar reasons: economic hardship is now a secondary factor for them; freedom is the primary aspect. Freedom is what fuels their minds to escape authoritarianism. 

However, with the growing tensions between the two states, the future of these Chinese immigrants seeking desperate freedom looks gleaming. According to prior reports, the US granted around 2 million temporary visas to Chinese. However, the number has fallen to a mere 160,000 in recent years due to the persistent tensions between the US and China.

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Chinese Immigrants at US-Mexico Border. |  CBS News ‘60 Minutes’

But how are these migrants making their way into the United States?

Despite efforts to stop illegal border crossings, migrants continue to find ways to enter the country, often exploiting weaknesses in border security. For instance, a 4-foot gap reportedly at the end of a border fence 60 miles east of San Diego has become a popular entry point. Smugglers often exploit this passage as well.

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As said earlier, the journey is dangerous and requires desperate measures. One individual speaking to a local US media organisation recounted a 40-day journey from China, passing through multiple countries including Thailand, Morocco, and Colombia before reaching the US-Mexico border. 

Some of these migrants, most from the middle class, arrive with rolling bags, having flown directly to Mexico from China via countries like Ecuador, which do not require visas for Chinese nationals.

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TikTok Aids Illegal Chinese Immigration

Intriguingly, TikTok has also played a role in guiding migrants on their journey, with instructional posts providing information on hiring smugglers and about the border gap. Once through the gap, migrants surrender immediately to US Border Patrol agents and await processing. As obtaining visas With legal avenues becoming more restricted, many are turning to illegal crossings as a last resort. However, this has become a recurrent challenge and is increasing every day for both migrants and authorities alike.

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While some advocate for migrants to utilise legal ports of entry and the asylum process, bureaucratic problems and long waiting times stop many from pursuing this option.

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Published February 6th, 2024 at 18:36 IST

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