Smuggling of Chinese immigrants on the rise

HOUSTON (AP) - Officials say attempts to smuggle illegal immigrants from China into the Houston area have increased in recent months.

On Dec. 11, a plane filled with illegal immigrants, including five Chinese citizens, took off from an airfield in the South Texas city of McAllen.

The plane landed in Wharton, about 60 miles southwest of Houston, and its passengers were loaded into a vehicle. The passengers were later detained by authorities.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the five Chinese citizens who were on the plane are being deported.

In September, U.S. Border Patrol agents intercepted 50 illegal immigrants packed inside an 18-wheeler at a South Texas highway checkpoint north of Harlingen, including 23 Chinese citizens headed to Houston.

In October, ICE agents, Border Patrol and state troopers rounded up 54 illegal immigrants in the Mission area, including 40 from China.

Officials say they are not sure what's driving the increase in Chinese immigration but note historically that it has "ebbed and flowed."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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