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The NYTimes' November 24, 2023 Growing Numbers of Chinese Migrants Are Crossing the Southern Border begins with the line:

More than 24,000 Chinese citizens have been apprehended crossing into the United States from Mexico in the past year. That is more than in the preceding 10 years combined.

It later mentions that for some countries the US uses various types of leverage (often aid or otherwise economic) to get some countries that are initially reluctant to accept their citizens being deported back, but that China is resistant.

It ends:

When Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi met last week during an international summit in San Francisco, for instance, immigration was absent in their discussion. Instead, they talked about fentanyl, American business investment in China and export controls, among other topics.

In the past, American diplomats have tried to work with the Chinese government to persuade it to repatriate its citizens, and the response has tended to be the same.

“They would just plain refuse to acknowledge the person was Chinese,” said Michele Thoren Bond, a former assistant secretary of state who worked on these issues.

“It is not credible that a country that documents and monitors its citizens as closely as China does not have photos of every citizen,” Ms. Bond added.

Question: What happens to Chinese illegal migrants to the US that the US wants to deport but China won't accept?

Do most of them eventually get released back into the US, are they interned somewhere, or does the US find other countries willing to accept them?

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The answer largely does not concern China and Chinese nationals in particular. Cuba for example notably refuses to accept deportees. Cambodia refused to accept US deportees until 2002. And then there are stateless persons without legal right to residency.

It later mentions that for some countries the US uses various types of leverage (often aid or otherwise economic) to get some countries that are initially reluctant to accept their citizens being deported back, but that China is resistant.

And the U.S. isn't successful in all these cases. Chinese nationals are not special, as far as it concerns the practices in the U.S. The U.S. is also not special in that it cannot deport some persons liable for deportation.

Reluctance to take back illegal migrants is a common problem worldwide (https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/recalcitrant-uncooperative-countries-refuse-deportation). China also has a problem of being unable to deport certain African and Southeast Asian migrants due to uncertain identity and nationality.

Do most of them eventually get released back into the US, are they interred somewhere, or does the US find other countries willing to accept them?

All these are possible (though the last option is probably unlikely to be available).

Most illegal migrants, when found, are not detained indefinitely during their removal proceedings. They may be released on bond or their own recognizance, based on several factors (e.g. likelihood to appear, threat to public safety) reminiscent of criminal bail proceedings.

If a removal order is issued, DHS may detain "indefinitely" persons liable for removal. The limits of the detention power were set by the Supreme Court in Zadvydas v. Davis and Clark v. Martinez.

As summarized by the American Immigration Council:

However, there are limits on DHS’s authority to indefinitely detain people who the agency cannot deport. If a person is not deported within the first 90 days after a final order of removal, DHS must determine whether there is a “significant likelihood” that the person will be removed “in the reasonably foreseeable future.” If DHS determines that the person will not be removed in the reasonably foreseeable future, then after 180 days have passed it must release the person on an order of supervision if they are neither a flight risk [nor] a danger to the community. The agency is also required to renew this determination once every six months, and the person can file a habeas petition to challenge their detention once six months have passed.

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They are Released into the US

This NBC News article from April 2024 cites a DHS report from 2021 that says:

“Beijing’s refusal to cooperate forces ICE to release hundreds of PRC nationals, many with convictions for violent crimes, into American communities, jeopardizing public safety.”

NBC continues:

ICE records indicate it deported 288 people to China last fiscal year; meanwhile, the number of Chinese nationals living in the U.S. with final orders of deportation is around 100,000, according to internal data obtained last year by The New York Times.

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  • Thanks for addressing the specifics of my question. I think this is an ongoing story and there will be developments, (progress, or not) for quite a while, but the bounty clock waits for no one.
    – uhoh
    May 17 at 3:25

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