Chinese immigrants using social media as guide to cross the US

Chinese immigrants using social media as guide to cross the US

A growing number of Chinese immigrants are crossing into the U.S. without papers, often taking harrowing journeys through several countries and modes of transport, using social media as their guide.

Ian Johnson, senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, said that people who are more middle class are feeling that the opportunities are diminishing and that the political situation has become a lot riskier. And so they are finding a way to get out of China by hook or crook. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that over the past five months, over 4,300 Chinese undocumented migrants have been apprehended crossing the southern border, which is more than double the number for all of the previous year.

One immigrant spoke anonymously to MSNBC about his experience, saying he feared staying in China after speaking out against government corruption. After being jailed twice, he fled, following instructions left by those before him on Chinese social networking apps. Detailed guides, videos and maps helped him make the journey largely on his own.

He said there was a lot of information. He said his journey took weeks, and he traversed thousands of miles on planes, buses, boats, motorcycles and on foot. Some social media posts advise migrants to cross in California rather than in the South, because stricter immigration policies could mean worse treatment on arrival.

Another man who left his family behind to make the initial journey said he has heard of others having to pay people for access to crucial information like where to stay along the way and where to cross. He said that the price of that information can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

The new phenomenon is that people are trying to make money, he said in a translated interview. They're giving bits of information out at a time, and they're going to demand more money, if you want more information about a particular route.