Chinese teens trafficked into US through Central America
By Melissa Klein
The signs at the Texas border offer a glimpse of the enormity of the problem of unaccompanied minors trying to sneak into the US.
The instructions are printed in English and Spanish, of course — but also, surprisingly, they’re instructions for help are also in Chinese.
Hundreds of Chinese teens are slipping into the US a year, immigration groups say, mostly through Central America and Cuba.
They make their way to New York City, typically on buses, where they are farmed out across the country to work in Chinese restaurants.
Lauren Burke, a lawyer who speaks Mandarin, has worked with some 200 kids under age 18 in the last five years. She now has a caseload of 30 who need legal status.
“Some of them are actually trafficked by their parents. The parents are very complicit,” Burke said. “Sometimes, the family member gets duped by somebody who says . . . ‘I see you can’t afford to send your kid to school anymore. If you send them to America, there are streets paved with gold.’ ”
They take complicated routes to get here, through cities where visas are easily secured. Guatemala and Cuba are favored stops, said Burke, executive director of Atlas: DIY, an advocacy group in Brooklyn.
From Guatemala, they take overland routes to the US border.
One of Burke’s clients who flew from Bejing to Guatemala then took buses to the border. Once there, smugglers was put him in a coffin to cross the border.
Another girl hid in a Guatemalan tour-bus bathroom that was marked out of order.
Those who land in Cuba come to the United States hidden under the floorboards of boats.
Another client took a less typical but equally circuitous route from her home in Fujian province through Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, then New York.
Juliet thought she was coming to live with the dad she hadn’t seen since she was a toddler. Her mom paid a “snakehead,” or smuggler, $80,000 to spirit her to America.
She was 15 when she left China for the monthlong journey to New York. She landed, alone, at JFK Airport with a fake passport and understanding no English.
A day later, her dad sent her on a bus in Chinatown bound for to Illinois, where she was to work in a Chinese restaurant. She doesn’t know if he was paid to send her, but it’s likely.
“I hated it here,” she told The Post. “They didn’t tell me anything.”
Juliet worked as a waitress in Illinois until customers asked her age and why she wasn’t in school. the restaurant owners enrolled her in school. where a classmate alerted her mom, who A parent there alerted a child advocates group.
Juliet eventually met Burke, who took her case. She lived in a Manhattan shelter and a succession of foster homes and graduated from high school.
Now 21, she waits tables and attends nursing school in Rochester. She obtained a green card through a program that helps abused, abandoned, or neglected children.
She says she sends money to her mom to pay off the snakehead.
“I just wish someone would know better before they come here so they wouldn’t have to go through what I had to go through,” she said.http://nypost.com/2014/06/29/hundreds-of-chinese-teens-enter-u-s-through-central-america/