Report: Chinese Citizens Using Ecuador – and Tiktok – to Reach U.S. Border

A man from China gets a bowl of oatmeal from a volunteer as he waits with others for proce
AP Photo/Gregory Bull

Thousands of Chinese migrants are using Ecuador as a crucial starting point in South America that allows them to eventually reach the United States to claim asylum, according to a report published by the Argentine news outlet Infobae on Sunday.

Ecuador is one of two countries in South America that presently do not impose any kind of entry visa requirements for bearers of Chinese passports. As a result, Chinese citizens seeking to claim asylum in the United States are taking advantage, reportedly flying to either Istanbul, Turkey, or Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on their way to Ecuador.

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From there, they reportedly take another flight to Ecuador, followed by a bus ride toward the northern Colombian city of Necoclí, where they cross through the dangerous Darién Gap jungle trail to reach Panama, and then continue their journey through Central America toward the U.S. southern border.

Upon reaching the U.S. southern border, the Chinese nationals allegedly request asylum to American authorities under grounds of persecution by the Chinese communist regime led by dictator Xi Jinping.

Said U.S-bound Chinese migrants, Infobae stated, are often middle-class citizens that have invested “large amounts of money” in their trips and have used social media platforms — especially the Chinese-owned TikTok — to plan and prepare their routes. The entire journey can reportedly take several months and involves “thousands of [U.S.] dollars.”

The Associated Press

TikTok logo (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

The Argentine news outlet, in its report, cited a study published by the Washington-based Wilson Center think tank that found that while Chinese nationals have historically entered the United States through study programs or H1-B work visas, more and more have begun entering the United States by claiming asylum at the southern border.

Infobae reported that China’s economic difficulties, such as low gross domestic product (GDP) growth and high youth unemployment rates, are driving the Chinese migration flow

“Upon arrival in the United States, many Chinese migrants seek asylum and integrate into established Chinese communities, where they find support and resources,” Infobae reported. “Despite mixed views within these pre-existing communities, the approval rate of asylum applications for Chinese nationals is quite high.”

Infobae explained that some 50,000 Chinese migrants entered Ecuador in 2023, of which roughly half had left the country. Those who remained in Ecuador either chose to establish businesses in the country or opted to hire human traffickers to smuggle them into U.S. territory.

In 2022, Infobae published a report detailing how human traffickers, commonly known as “Coyotes,” openly use TikTok to offer “safe travel” services from Ecuador to the United States. Some of the “VIP” routes through the Darién Gap are controlled by the Colombian Gulf Clan, which has maintained an active presence in the jungle trail and has established checkpoints to charge migrants for passage through the area.

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Randy Clark / Breitbart Texas

According to a report published by Insight Crime in April, the Gulf Clan offers “packages” to migrants that cost upwards of $1,000, allegedly allowing for an expedited and “safer” route through the Darién Gap. Insight Crime estimates that the Gulf Clan was able to pocket between $17.5 million to $25 million in revenue from the sale of said packages during 2023.

In January, U.S. Border Patrol authorities announced that nearly 16,000 Chinese migrants had been apprehended since the start of the new 2024 fiscal year in October, an amount that amounted to nearly two-thirds of the total registered during the start of Fiscal Year 2023.

DARIEN GAP, COLOMBIA - NOVEMBER 20: Haitian migrants climb down a muddy hillside trail in the wild and dangerous jungle on November 20, 2022 in Darién Gap, Colombia. Tens of thousands of migrants from around the world make their journey to the Southern U.S border through South America every year, crossing the Darién Gap, an inhospitable rainforest region. They walk for several days in harsh climatic conditions, risking their lives and facing dangers of poisonous animals and drug traffickers. They seek the American Dream. (Photo by Jan Sochor/Getty Images)

Haitian migrants climb down a muddy hillside trail in the wild and dangerous jungle on November 20, 2022, in Darién Gap, Colombia. (Jan Sochor/Getty Images)

Statistical information published by Panama’s migration authorities in April showed that more than 125,000 migrants crossed through the Darién Gap between January and April 17. In 2023, Panama registered a record-breaking number of 520,000 migrants crossing the jungle trail. The majority of the migrants who crossed the Darién Gap in 2023 hailed from Venezuela, Ecuador, Haiti, and China.

Panamanian President-Elect José Raúl Mulino, who will take office on July 1, has repeatedly stated that his administration will crack down on U.S-bound migrants crossing through the Darién Gap. Frank Ábrego, who is slated to serve as Panama’s public security minister once Mulino begins his administration, informed last week that Panama will establish checkpoints across the Darién Gap to detain and deport migrants, noting that construction of a wall in the dangerous jungle trail has been deemed “impossible.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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