Illegal Chinese immigrants slip into Texas

KHOU 11 News | December 24, 2008
By Jeff McShan

SUGAR LAND, Texas -- Along the Texas and Mexico border, police are familiar with illegal crossings. But when the immigrants are not Mexicans, but rather Chinese nationals, it's a surprise.

The U.S. Border Patrol said 837 Chinese immigrants were detained trying to come into America from Mexico last year. Over 500 of these were caught in the first eight months of 2008.

For many years, immigrants from China found the easiest access to America was to sail directly into U.S. ports, but that changed after the Golden Venture incident in 1993. That was when the ship carrying 286 Chinese immigrants ran aground just off the shores of Queens, New York.

Since then, port security in the United States has tightened up, making Mexico the most popular illegal route.

In early December, the Air and Marine Operation Center in Riverside, California, was tracking a suspicious aircraft that departed McAllen for Sugar Land.

Yolanda Choates, a spokesperson for U.S Customs and Border protection, said the aircraft was a Cessna.

“They alerted the Houston Air and Marine branch to dispatch an aircraft to covertly watch the suspicious aircraft,” said Choates.

The pilot first landed the plane in Wharton, where five illegal Chinese immigrants got out and jumped into a vehicle.

“They had a high speed chase. The driver got away, but the undocumented Chinese aliens remained in the vehicle,” said Choates.

All of them were taken into custody.

The pilot and other crew members flew to Sugar Land, where they were met by law enforcement on the ground.

Most Chinese aliens pay an average of $55,000 to be transported from China to a final U.S. destination.

Once in America, many seek asylum because of their political or religious beliefs. Others don’t like China's restrictive birth control policy.