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More Chinese Immigrants Are Coming To The U.S...Through Mexico?

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The border at Tijuana (Photo by Simon Doggett via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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There's been a sharp rise in Chinese nationals crossing illegally into the U.S., and they're coming through Mexico, reports the L.A. Times. In the entire previous fiscal year, 48 Chinese immigrants were detained by Border Patrol agents in the San Diego area. During the first 8 months of this fiscal year, 663 were detained.

Many of them are being smuggled in by criminal organizations, Wendi Lee, a spokeswoman for the Border Patrol, told the Times. Lee said that smugglers are charging $50,000 to $70,000 a person, with adjustments based on how far the immigrant is traveling.

In some ways, the news isn't particularly surprising. China has become one of the world's biggest sources of immigrants, with the majority of the émigrés coming from the country's higher echelons. The Times quoted a February report by the Migration Policy Institute:

The emigration rate of China's highly educated population is now five times as high as the country's overall rate. China's wealthy elites and growing middle class are increasingly pursuing educational and work opportunities overseas for themselves and their families, facilitated by their rising incomes.
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The Pew Research Center predicts that, by 2065, the majority of immigrants coming to the U.S. will be from Asian countries. The number of people coming from Latin America, meanwhile, is declining. Hispanics currently make up 47% of immigrants living in the U.S. That number is expected to drop to 31% by 2065. Asian immigrants, who currently account for 26% of the immigrant population living in the U.S., will make up 38% of that population in 2065, according to the center.

Xiao Wang, a lecturer at UC San Diego's Chinese Studies Program, told the Times that commerce is driving immigration from China. He said that small-business owners are coming to sell products like electronics.

What happens when Chinese nationals are caught at the border? Their cases are reviewed by an immigration court, which later decides if they'll be detained or released, according to Border Patrol. This may sound very cordial on paper, but dealings with both Border Patrol and U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement are often contentious (this is a gross understatement). In May, federal authorities announced plans to conduct a number of deportation raids, focusing on immigrants who'd just arrived from Central America, Reuters reported. This was roundly condemned by a number of officials, including Mayor Eric Garcetti. Garcetti said in an email statement that, "Los Angeles has always welcomed people from all over the world, especially those needing refuge from extreme violence and harrowing persecution."