(NewsNation) — Chinese nationals are increasingly crossing into the U.S. at the southern border, paying cartels and smuggling organizations to get them there from Ecuador.
Smuggling organizations are charging Chinese nationals anywhere from $35,000 and up to cross into the U.S.
NewsNation spoke to one Chinese migrant, Zhang Kiayu, who made the journey into the U.S., telling his story via a translator app.
Kiayu said his journey began in Ecuador. He then traveled through Colombia where smugglers coordinated his travel on boats to Panama, passing through the Darien Gap.
Kiayu was issued a temporary visa in Mexico before finishing his journey over the wall and into the U.S. He paid $11,000 to cartel members and different smuggling operations to make the whole journey.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is working with U.S. Border Patrol to stem the flow of illegal migrants crossing into the U.S. at the southern border.
Kiayu told NewsNation he left China because of the strict COVID-19 policies, sharing videos of what he experienced before deciding to flee. When asked why he chose to come to America, he said he was “yearning for American freedom.”
Lt. Chris Olivarez of the Texas DPS told NewsNation the spike in Chinese migrants is unusual.
“It’s very alarming because Border Patrol has been dealing with, dealing with the uptick in Chinese nationals especially in the Rio Grande Valley sector which is unusual. Before, we would never see this many Chinese nationals coming across this area here but of course it’s a very lucrative business for the smuggling organizations,” said Olivarez.
Since the start of 2023, there have been 4,366 encounters with Chinese nationals, with 1,368 in February alone.
Like many others, Kiayu was detained then released with a notice to appear in court at a later date. Kiayu told NewsNation he has now been released from Customs and Border Protection’s custody and is on his way to New York.