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Bound for the Golden Mountain: The social organization of Chinese alien smuggling

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This paper describes and analyzes the structural and operational features of Chinese alien smuggling. Interviews with aliens, smugglers and law enforcement officials in China, Hong Kong and the U.S. reveal this activity to be a complex process comprising a number of distinct operational stages. Our data suggest Chinese alien smuggling groups vary in their level of organization but most are best understood as task forces, or small groups of people assembled to perform a particular piece of work. These task forces are typically linked to international social networks characterized by overlapping, dyadic relationships; a high level of role differentiation; and a limited degree of hierarchy. Such groups are highly responsive to changing socio-legal and market constraints.

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The study was supported in part by a grant from California State University. The authors are grateful to John Galliher for his comments and suggestions, and would like to thank Jorge Guzman and Darwin Chen of the U.S. INS for their assistance with the project. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Miami, 1994.

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Zhang, S.X., Gaylord, M.S. Bound for the Golden Mountain: The social organization of Chinese alien smuggling. Crime Law Soc Change 25, 1–16 (1996).

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