US deported Chinese migrants on charter flight, Homeland Security says

FILE PHOTO: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Mayorkas speaks at a news conference in New York

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States deported Chinese people who sought to enter the country illegally back to China over the weekend in the first large charter flight since 2018, the Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday.

The department did not specify how many people were on the flight.

The United States and China are working on reducing illegal migration and combating human smuggling, DHS said.

"We will continue to enforce our immigration laws and remove individuals without a legal basis to remain in the United States," said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. "People should not believe the lies of smugglers."

The difficulty of obtaining U.S. visas and the economic aftershocks of China’s COVID lockdowns led to a sharp increase in Chinese nationals presenting at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Nearly 56,000 Chinese migrants have been encountered at both the Southwest border with Mexico and the northern border with Canada crossing both between and at ports of entry in the 2024 fiscal year through May, according to U.S. government data. That is more than the 52,700 that crossed in the entire 2023 fiscal year that ended in October.

U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat seeking another term in the Nov. 5 election, has walked a political tightrope on immigration, trying to step up security at the U.S.-Mexico border while also taking a more humane approach to immigrants in the United States illegally.

Republican presidential rival Donald Trump has regularly criticized Biden for failing to stem high levels of illegal immigration.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Caitlin Webber)