Posted on February 7, 2024

Chinese Migrants, Some with the Help of TikTok, Have Become Fastest-Growing Group Trying to Cross U.S. Southern Border

Sharyn Alfonsi et al., CBS, February 4, 2024

After China’s prolonged and strict COVID lockdown destroyed her business, a woman decided to leave her two young children with family to travel to Mexico and cross into the U.S. through a hole at the border.

She’s far from alone: Chinese migrants are the fastest growing group trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico. Last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 37,000 Chinese citizens were apprehended as they illegally crossed the border; that’s 50 times more than two years earlier.

Many of the migrants say they made the journey to escape China’s increasingly repressive political climate and sluggish economy. The mom, through a translator, told “60 Minutes” that what motivated her was more than economic reasons and could be summed up in one word.

“Freedom,” she said.


Based on a “60 Minutes” review of Immigration and Customs Enforcement data, there are at least 36,000 Chinese who have been ordered by U.S. immigration courts to leave the country, but China often refuses to take back citizens and the U.S. can’t force China to accept them.

Last year, 55% of Chinese migrants were granted asylum compared with 14% of migrants from other countries, according to the Department of Justice.

With the odds in their favor –and instructions on TikTok to guide them– there’s little to discourage more Chinese migrants from coming through the gap, something that’s made California resident Jerry Shuster’s life very difficult.


Shuster, a 75-year-old retiree, owns the land near the border gap where the migrants wait to be picked up by Border Patrol. He owns 17 acres just north of the border fence and a quarter mile outside of Jacumba Hot Springs, California. Shuster came to the U.S. from Yugoslavia. He describes his immigration journey as coming “through the front door.”

“And I knock on this door,” Shuster said. “I didn’t bust the door down to come over here.”

The surge of migrants onto his property has been a frustrating experience for him. He said authorities haven’t done anything to help. “When they come over here, they come with the suitcases. They come prepared with the computers just like they got off on a Norwegian cruise ship yesterday,” Shuster said.

Migrants began arriving on his property in May. He went to investigate some smoke coming from his property and found migrants burning trees to stay warm while they waited for Border Patrol to pick them up. Sometimes that can take a few hours. Other times, it takes days.

One day several months ago, he implored the migrants to stop burning his trees. He said they surrounded him –so he went home and got his gun. Shuster said he was arrested after he fired his gun into the air.

“I’m just protecting my own land,” he said.

Shuster wasn’t charged, but his gun was confiscated.

Since, Shuster estimates 3,000 migrants a week have come through the hole. Shuster’s property is littered with the trash and tents migrants have left behind. He said officials know about the hole and that he’s asked for it to be fixed.

“‘You gotta call Washington D.C,’ that’s what they say,” Shuster said.