Copyright © 1997 AFLM
May/June, 1997 Volume XII Number 6 - IN THE NATION
"Golden Venture" Chinese men released
Washington, D.C. -- Fifty-three Chinese nationals jailed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) since 1993 have been released.
The aliens had been awaiting decisions on their requests for political asylum since the freighter trying to smuggle them into the United States ran aground off New York City in June 1993. Ten of the 277 passengers aboard the Golden Venture died trying to swim ashore.
Many of the survivors asked for political asylum from China's policy of one child per family and forced abortions after being taken into custody by the INS. They claimed their opposition to forced abortion and forced sterilization as grounds for permission to stay in the United States. The Clinton Administration opposed their release during the last three years but a law pushed through Congress last year made political asylum available to people fleeing forced abortion policies.
The grounding of the Golden Venture drew attention to a heavy flow of illegal aliens from China. Many of them are held like indentured servants for months or years as they work off travel debts of $25,000 or more.
As the aliens' detention dragged on, human rights advocates and anti-abortion activists took up their cause, dogging the Clinton administration with demands that it grant asylum or, at minimum, let the aliens out of jail on bail.
"At last, justice has been served," said Representative Bill Goodling (R-PA), who said he raised the issue with Clinton at a private budget meeting.
Goodling's district is home to the York County Prison, one of the facilities where the Chinese are being held. Others have been jailed in California, New York and Virginia as they appealed denials of their asylum requests.
The remaining six men and two women wish to be released to sponsors in Bakersfield. However, Michael Lizarraga of the Bakersfield INS apparently tried to trick the refugees into going to New York.
"For various reasons, we are concerned that the refugees will be in danger in New York, and we have made arrangements for them to stay here," said Tim Palmquist of Voice For Life. "But Mr. Lizarraga appears to be trying to prevent the refugees from having contact with us. He has arranged for them to be transported by the jail to the airport, and then flown to New York."
Voice for Life members have been meeting with the refugees for three years through the glass of the Lerdo visiting rooms.