From China to New York, by Way of the Southern Border

When busloads of migrants from Venezuela and Latin America started turning up on New York City streets in 2022, it spurred a crisis that has overwhelmed city shelters and incited protests over immigration policies.

And while Mayor Eric Adams and city leaders have sought to slow the pace of new arrivals, there has been another, smaller but also growing group of migrants coming into the city — largely unnoticed.

Thousands of Chinese migrants have also made their way to New York, with many following on the heels of migrants from Central and South America and crossing at the United States-Mexico border. Once they reach the city, however, many are tapping into long-established family and social networks in Chinese enclaves to get on their feet quickly and, for the most part, on their own.

It is not known exactly how many Chinese migrants have landed in New York. But immigration court filings since October 2022 show that New York State was their top destination — with more than 21,000 filings for Chinese migrants — followed by California, according to an analysis by Julia Gelatt, an associate director at the Migration Policy Institute.

The influx of Chinese migrants into the city has been the largest in more than a decade, and marks a return to the sizable immigration of Chinese people beginning in the 1980s that revived struggling neighborhoods like Chinatown, and cemented newer ethnic strongholds in Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

A Chinese immigrant displays a video of himself carrying his child through the Darien Gap, between Colombia and Panama. A growing number of Chinese migrants have been crossing into the United States through its southern border.

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