Chinese Citizens at the Southern Border, Explained

Chinese migrants speak to a border patrol officer before being processed after they crossed the Rio Grande into the U.S. on May 5, 2022, in Roma, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Most migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border hail from Latin America. But a growing number of Chinese asylum seekers have shown up at the United States’ southern border after making a dangerous overland trek through Latin America. 

That someone from China would choose to travel through as many as 10 countries—including 2,500 miles overland through Central America alone, with some of that on foot—to get to America might seem mind-boggling. But for many in China, safer routes—such as arriving via a direct flight and claiming asylum—are not an option.

“If you’re applying for asylum, you just have to set foot on U.S. soil,” Adam Isacson, director for defense oversight with the human rights nonprofit, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), tells The Dispatch. “And unfortunately, this may be the easiest way to do that for a lot of people, especially if they don’t have a lot in their bank account.”

What route do they take?

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