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Seeking asylum status, Chinese migrant in Colorado shares story

Seeking asylum status, one Chinese migrant's story
Seeking asylum status, one Chinese migrant's story 04:37

The growing number of people coming into the United States from China over the southern border includes individuals coming to Colorado. However, they are not often seen and make few demands for services, making their arrival less well-known than migrants coming from places like Venezuela.

"I think they're leaving because China is becoming more and more authoritative," said immigration attorney Margaret Choi. "I think it's getting more and more restrictive. And they are not allowed to criticize the Chinese leadership or the Chinese policy."

Among her clients, a woman in her 30s who served as a physician, who did not want her name shared, instead going by Hui (not her real name). 

"I was persecuted in China," she said as she related her story. 

Her difficulties became frightening in 2022 during the pandemic as she served at a Chinese hospital. The area had been placed on lockdown and she was told she would not be allowed to go home to attend to one of her two children, who had a serious infection in his foot. 

"I told my leader and I told him that l have to go because my kid is very sick," she said, explaining that as a doctor and also a mother she had to go. "And my leader said 'no,'" Hui explained. " The leader said if I left on my own, they are going to call the police on me." 

She still left.

She says three police officers were soon at her door arresting her in front of her two children. In custody, she says she was held without food or drink for three days and beaten. 

"The reason they beat me up is that I was protesting that what I did was right. They really had no right to lock me up. I'm saving my child's life."

Eventually, she would obtain the needed paperwork to leave China, flying to two Asian countries, then Turkey, and on to Ecuador where they do not require visas for Chinese migrants. 

From there, the long journey began with her husband and children through Colombia, then Central America up through Mexico and on to the U.S. border, some of it by bus, some walking along with others heading to the U.S. In places, they were robbed, and there were beatings. 

"Of course, I'm very scared for my children's lives and we cry a lot. But then I thought about if I was in China I would be locked up forever, and they would never see their mom again."

At the southern border, there has been a sharp increase in the number of Chinese citizens crossing illegally in recent years. 

CBS 60 Minutes reports that last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 37,000 Chinese citizens were apprehended crossing illegally from Mexico into the U.S., a rate 50 times greater than two years earlier. 

Many head to the West Coast where Asian communities are larger, but there are those who seek out places like Colorado. Hui came to the Denver area where she had friends who are helping support the family. Choi has filed for political asylum for her. 

"I think there's strong evidence to prove that she was persecuted and would be persecuted if she returned," she said. She sees nothing indicating that Chinese citizens crossing the border are spies. 

"As far as I know. Most of them they come because they really cannot stand the situation in China," said Choi. "They are seeking for protection here. And they are good people. And I don't think we should be afraid of them."

Hui says she hopes she can stay. A hearing on her application is likely over two years out. She will be able to seek work authorization in a couple more months. 

Hui says her older child, a son, is doing well in school and making friends. 

"Hopefully, I will be able to get asylum and get protection here and after that, I would like to become a doctor one of these days. I'm a very good doctor. And I know that I will start from the very beginning, but I will try."

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