Is It Political?

By Moskowitz, Ellen | The Hastings Center Report, January-February 1995 | Go to article overview

Is It Political?


Moskowitz, Ellen, The Hastings Center Report


The People's Republic of China's "one couple, one child" population policy has spawned a flurry of court activity here in the United States. A number of Chinese citizens have sought asylum based on a fear that they will be forcibly sterilized if returned to their own country. Petitioners contend that this threat meets the applicable federal requirements for asylum, namely a "well-founded fear of persecution on account of political opinion."

The Department of Justice is the federal agency responsible for the asylum rules and has discretion to determine the cases meriting asylum. However, under both the Bush and Clinton administrations, the agency has failed to clarify whether China's coercive population policy is a basis for entry to the U.S. The ambiguous federal standard has produced a patchwork approach by the courts. One recent case denying asylum is Si v. Slattery, 13 October 1994. A case finding eligibility for the relief is Guo v. Carroll, 14 January 1994. In both suits, the plaintiffs arrived in the United States on June 1993, aboard the Golden Venture, a ship which ran aground in Queens, N.Y, carrying some 300 people fleeing China.

In Si, the court accepted as true that shortly after the birth of Si's son, family planning officials pressured Si and his wife to have no more children. This included demanding that Si undergo a vasectomy. In order to avoid the operation Si fled the country, leaving behind his wife and child. An immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals determined that Si did not qualify for asylum. He appealed to a federal trial court in New York.

The trial court also denied his claim, finding the applicable federal rule to preclude political asylum based on implementation of a family planning policy, "even to the extent that involuntary sterilization may occur. …

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