The international traffic in human beings

Smuggled Chinese

Clandestine Immigration to the United States

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Ko-lin Chin, foreword by Douglas S. Massey

"Chin creates a poignant picture of the great hardships immigrants have endured in order to pay off debts and send money home to their families....Recommended for public and academic libraries."
Library Journal

No one knows how many Chinese are being smuggled into the United States, but credible estimates put the number at 50,000 arrivals each year. Astonishing as this figure is, it represents only a portion of the Chinese illegally residing in the United States. Smuggled Chinese presents a detailed account of how this traffic is conducted and what happens to the people who risk their lives to reach Gold Mountain.

When the Golden Venture ran aground off New York's coast in 1993 and ten of the 260 Chinese on board drowned, the public outcry about human smuggling became front-page news. Probing into the causes and consequences of this clandestine traffic, Ko-Lin Chin has interviewed more than 300 people—smugglers, immigrants, government officials, and business owners—in the United States, China and Taiwan. Their poignant and chilling testimony describes a flourishing industry in which smugglers—big and little snakeheads—command fees as high as $30,000 to move desperate but hopeful men and women around the world. For many who survive the hunger, filthy and crowded conditions, physical and sexual abuse, and other perils of the arduous journey, life in the United States, specifically in New York's Chinatown, is a disappointment if not a curse. Few will return to China, though, because their families depend on the money and status gained by having a relative in the States.

In Smuggled Chinese, Ko-Lin Chin puts a human face on this intractable international problem, showing how flaws in national policies and lax law enforcement perpetuate the cycle of desperation and suffering. He strongly believes, however, that the problem of human smuggling will continue for as long as China's citizens are deprived of fundamental human rights and economic security.

Smuggled Chinese will engage readers interested in human rights, Asian and Asian-American studies, urban studies, and sociology.



Read the Preface and Chapter 1 (pdf).



"Smuggled Chinese explores an important subject that until now has not been investigated fully by scholars. I am confident that it will emerge as a major contribution to the literature."
Michael Welch, Associate Professor, Rutgers University

"...pathbreaking. Chin's analysis is grounded in interviews with 300 Chinese, most of whom had been smuggled into the United States between 1988 and 1993.... [H]is multifaceted research strategy endows his analysis and conclusions with a high degree of credibility."
American Journal of Sociology

"...highly recommend[ed] for anyone interested in the traffic of illegal immigrants."
Journal of American Ethnic History

"Chin describes the international network of this flourishing business, lays bare its evil, and also puts a human face on this intractable international problem, showing how flaws in national policies and lax law enforcement perpetuate the cycle of desperation and suffering."
MultiCultural Review



Foreword – Douglas S. Massey

Part I: Leaving for the Beautiful Country
1. In Search of the American Dream
2. In Search of the Beautiful Country
3. The Social Organization of Human Smuggling

Part II: Following the Snakeheads
4. The Air Route
5. The Sea Route
6. The Land Route

Part III: Climbing the Mountain of Gold
7. Safe Houses
8. Life in the Mountain of Gold
9. Stemming the Tide

Appendix A: Research Methods
Appendix B: Tables


About the Author(s)

Ko-lin Chin is Associate Professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, Newark. He is author of many articles on illegal Chinese immigration and Chinese gangs, and writes in both English and Chinese. He is author of Chinatown Gangs: Extortion, Enterprise and Ethnicity.

Subject Categories

Asian American Studies
Law and Criminology
Urban Studies

In the series

Asian American History and Culture, edited by K. Scott Wong, Linda Trinh Vő, and Cathy Schlund-Vials.

Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture, series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi and David Palumbo-Liu, series editors K. Scott Wong, Linda Trinh Vő, and Cathy Schlund-Vials continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.



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