Second Circuit Criticizes Immigration Judge for Ignoring Evidence
In the case of a Roman Catholic asylee from China, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Immigration Judge (IJ) was mistaken in his ruling. Tian-Yong Chen fled to the US in 1995 because of religious persecution.
At his 1997 deportation hearing, Chen testified that he had been arrested in China in 1994 for soliciting funds for an unsanctioned Roman Catholic church in his village in the province of Fujian. He claimed he had been interrogated, rebuked and beaten while in custody. After his release, Chen said he continued to raise funds for the church and also wrote and distributed pamphlets about Roman Catholicism. He testified that he fled China after hearing the police were looking to arrest him again.
At the hearing, the IJ allowed a 1995 State Department report in human rights in China to be admitted into evidence. The report stated that while the Chinese government was concerned about the rapid growth of unsanctioned Christian churches, the government generally targeted religious leaders and priests rather than individual worshippers.
The IJ denied Chen asylum for failing to establish past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld the IJ’s decision, stating that Chen had not testified that he had been beaten by Chinese authorities and citing the State Department report as proof that religious persecution in China was aimed at religious leaders.
The Second Circuit criticized immigration authorities for ignoring Chen’s claim of physical abuse by police in China. The court decided that the BIA might have reached a different conclusion about Chen’s persecution if it had considered evidence that he had been beaten. The Court vacated the decision and remanded the case for a new hearing with the instruction that the immigration judge not place “excessive reliance” on State Department reports, since these reports are “sometimes skewed toward governing administration’s foreign policy goals and concerns.” The Court also noted that Chen’s participation in his church in China could make him regarded as a leader.
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