As massive international aid relief efforts continue in Haiti, there’s a small office in Chinatown that’s coordinating its own response for an under-the-radar group: people from China brought there by smugglers during their costly, arduous multileg journeys to the United States.
Steven Wong, founder of Chinatown’s Lin Ze Xu Foundation, said hundreds have contacted him since the Jan. 12 earthquake trying to find relatives who hired “snakeheads” — the Chinese term for smugglers — to get them to America.
“The Chinese smugglers have been using Haiti as a stopover since the late 1980s, early 1990s,” said Wong, who also works as a translator for immigration officials. From Haiti, they are often put on boats to Mexico or to the U.S., he said.
Wong thinks there are hundreds of Chinese in Haiti. Using his network of immigration officials and retired police, Wong said he located 27 people in two days, all of whom decided to return to China.
He was told that in another group — 40 who ran from a safehouse — just 15 agreed to return to China