Posted on July 1, 2014

Chinese Teens Trafficked into US Through Central America

Melissa Klein, New York Post, June 29, 2014

The signs at the Texas border offer a glimpse of the enormity of the problem of unaccompanied minors trying to sneak into the US.

The instructions are printed in English and Spanish, of course–but also, surprisingly, the instructions for help are also in Chinese.

Hundreds of Chinese teens are slipping into the US a year, immigration groups say, mostly through Central America and Cuba.

They make their way to New York City, typically on buses, where they are farmed out across the country to work in Chinese restaurants.

Lauren Burke, a lawyer who speaks Mandarin, has worked with some 200 kids under age 18 in the last five years. She now has a caseload of 30 who need legal status.

“Some of them are actually trafficked by their parents. The parents are very complicit,” Burke said. “Sometimes, the family member gets duped by somebody who says . . . ‘I see you can’t afford to send your kid to school anymore. If you send them to America, there are streets paved with gold.’ ”

They take complicated routes to get here, through cities where visas are easily secured. Guatemala and Cuba are favored stops, said Burke, executive director of Atlas: DIY, an advocacy group in Brooklyn.

From Guatemala, they take overland routes to the US border.

One of Burke’s clients flew from Bejing to Guatemala, then took buses to the border. Once there, smugglers put him in a coffin to cross the border.

Another girl hid in a Guatemalan tour-bus bathroom that was marked “Out of Order.”

Those who land in Cuba come to the United States hidden under the floorboards of boats.