Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown by Lauren Hilgers:
Nationwide, more Chinese people apply for and attain asylum every year than any other group. Every years Chinese asyless outnumber those from the next three nations (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Egypt) combined. For a working-class Chinese immigrant with no existing family in the United States, asylum is one of the only pathways to citizenship. And yet for the most part, Chinese asylum seekers have avoided New York’s ecosystem of legal aid services; Zhuang and Little Yan’s path was rare. Spanish, Arabic, and French speakers are common at aid organizations, but when I began inquiring on behalf of Zhuang, I found very few pro bono lawyers available who spoke Mandarin. Chinese immigrants, instead, had created a network of their own. In Flushing, the signs cluttering the sidewalk included multiple offices for immigration lawyers. People exchanged their lawyers’ phone numbers while lingering around employment offices or waiting for customers in nail salons.
Asylum claims from China are so successful, in large part, because of the specific trypes of persecution Chinese citizens face. To be granted asylum in the United States, an individual must prove that he or she faces persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group. The persecution must have been carried out by government forces or else involve violence the government is unable to prevent. Immigrants fleeing gang violence in Honduras or El Salvador are hard-pressed to fulfill all these requirements—it is difficult to prove that the violence is targeted and that governments are doing nothing to prevent it. In Chinese asylum cases, however, the government is typically behind the persecution.
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