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Young Chinese seek asylum in US – With help from TikTok – DW – 02/29/2024

Young Chinese seek asylum in US – With help from TikTok – DW – 02/29/2024

The skin on Guo's feet is scratched and, despite the desert cold, he wears only dusty plastic sandals bought in Colombia. There is one country Migration to to us Favored by immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean — now joined by more Chinese like him.

His odyssey began in the southeastern city of Shenzhen China, where he worked as a mechanic in a factory. From there, he flew to Ecuador, where Chinese passport holders do not need a visa. Then continued through the ground Darien bufferDense tropical forest on the border of Colombia and Panama.

Finally, after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States the night before, the 24-year-old found himself in Jagumba Hot Springs, a California town of 600 people, about 80 miles east of San Diego. His English is rough, but the ecstasy is palpable: “It's so exciting to finally be in America!”

Access to the location was through the “San Judas Break”, one of the gaps in the massive fence separating the two North American countries. Most migrants from China wait in line for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to take them in to officially seek asylum. Some are wearing padded jackets, others are covered in blankets: everyone carries some things, only two have suitcases.

The “San Judas Break” is a well-known break in the border between Mexico and the United StatesPhoto: Franziska Wüst/DW

Trust in TikTok

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Chinese people still represent only 2.5% of those illegally crossing the U.S. southern border, making them the fastest growing group. From October to January, the patrol recorded about 19 thousand of them: the same period in 2021, due to restrictions The international spread of Covid-19That number is only 55.

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Michelle Mittelstadt of the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute (MPI) explains that most Chinese people try to enter through the southern border to avoid the strict rules and long wait times that their countrymen face through official immigration channels.

Even after entering the country illegally, a Chinese citizen's chances of being granted asylum in the United States are relatively good: the Department of Justice records an approval rate of more than 50% compared to just 4% for Mexican applicants.

“I know all this information from the Internet, from TikTok,” Guo said, taking a cell phone from his pocket. Video and social media channels of messaging sites provide step-by-step instructions on the best ways to enter the United States, recommended modes of transportation, and how much bribes border agents expect in each country.

“Events of China's Southern Border Entry into the United States”zouxianLiterally: “Danger”. The wide spread of this word on social media is encouraging many youngsters.

“In China, we rely heavily on social media for information,” explains Asian country expert Ian Johnson. Think tank American Council on Foreign Relations. “In the West, 'What is the mainstream media saying about the problem?' But there is no way to check the facts in China.” He worries that these young people do not know what they are doing.

There is no padded jacket or blanket and no luggage at Jagumba Hot SpringsPhoto: Franziska Wüst/DW

Loss of economic confidence

Why do so many Chinese leave their own country? “There are a lot of problems in China. Young people can't afford the cost of living in the city,” says expat Guo.

According to researchers, the economy The national economy is in recession, with high youth unemployment and expectations of deflation by 2025. The result could be a downward spiral of consumption, bank bankruptcies and mass unemployment.

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The situation doesn't just affect the very poor, Johnson predicts: “The recession is now affecting broad segments of the population, including the lower middle class.” Growing Political Harassment Under President Xi Jinping It also strengthens the desire to migrate.

Guo's family did not know he had fled to the United States. Their relations are not good: “Because I have a completely different opinion about the government, about the Chinese Communist Party, about the world. I don't like dictatorship.” From childhood, he knew America as a democratic and economically powerful country.

I don't know how long I have to wait here in the cold of the desert. CBP agents patrol in their white Jeeps, but it could be hours, maybe even another night, before someone picks them up. But Guo didn't care about being sent back. His plan after settling in the country: “Get a job to live a good life. After a few years, I want to be a professional truck driver.”

Migrants to America cross the jungle between Colombia and Panama

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