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Updated Feb 14, 2024, 6:14pm EST
North America
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Semafor Signals

Ten times more Chinese migrants entered the U.S. through Mexico last year

Insights from CBS News, Nikkei Asia, and The New York Times

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A Chinese migrant sit in front of his tent near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec, 6, 2023.
AFP via Getty Images/Valerie Macon
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The News

More than 37,000 Chinese migrants were detained after crossing the U.S. border through Mexico last year, around 50 times more than in 2021 and a tenfold increase on 2022.

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The number of Chinese migrants choosing to risk the long and difficult journey to the United States made them the fastest-growing group fueling the unprecedented migrant surge at the southern border in 2023.

However, Chinese nationals still made up only 1.5% of 2.5 million migrants encountered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2023, with the overwhelming majority originating from Mexico and Central America.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Poor economic conditions in China are driving many to flee

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Sources:  
CBS News, Nikkei Asia, CNN

Many of the migrants made the long journey to escape China’s increasingly repressive rule and faltering economy, CBS News reported. A fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. think tank, told Nikkei Asia that economic pressures were the main reason for the surge, saying that the difficult conditions are “likely to continue for the next several years.”

One Chinese migrant told Nikkei Asia that the Chinese government’s promises that the economy will look up soon are “propaganda intended for those outside China. This is the reality.” And it’s not just about economics. “Regardless of whether they’re here for economic reasons or other things, it’s for dignity — something they’ve never had in their home country,” one Chinese-Muslim community leader told CNN.

When migrants are expelled, China often won’t take them back

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Sources:  
The New York Times, Axios

About 100,000 of the 1.3 million people in the U.S. who are on final orders to be deported are Chinese, The New York Times reported. But even those ordered to return home often stay in the U.S. because China typically won’t take them back, leaving many migrants stuck in limbo. “It is a little-discussed wrinkle in the U.S. system: American officials cannot force countries to take back their own citizens,” The Times wrote.

“Beijing blames the U.S. for enticing Chinese nationals to leave by granting them asylum,” Axios reported, “but the U.S. blames China for what it perceives to be oppressive policies and for making it difficult to deport people back to China.”

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