Asylum Fraud Arrests Don’t Surprise Many in Chinatown
On December 18, the FBI arrested 26 people from East Broadway in Chinatown. Among them were attorneys, translators, law firm and church employees. They were charged with participating in immigration fraud schemes involving false political persecution claims, the Sing Dao Daily reported. The translation below is a roundup of two articles, one by Ziying Li and the other by Guowen Liao.
The FBI arrested 26 people, including six immigration attorneys, in sweeping raids on offices on East Broadway in Chinatown on immigration fraud charges. In recent years, the number of asylum claims filed by Chinese immigrants have seen a dramatic increase. Most of these asylum-seekers used the same few reasons over and over again,
making their stories remarkably similar. The arrests did not surprise many people in the area.
Frank Liu, a Chinese
immigration lawyer, points out that Chinese immigration lawyers have been arrested before. For instance, in the infamous Robert Porges case in 2000, immigration lawyer Porges and his wife made over $13.5 million by assisting Chinese smugglers. In a similar case last year, another immigration lawyer, Hak Tung Lam, who is also known as Ke Dong Lin, was arrested on charges of assisting human traffickers. In both cases, the defendants were charged with conspiring to commit immigration fraud and working with coyotes to assist a large number of undocumented immigrants cross the border. A dramatic increase in the number of Chinese political asylum claims is believed to have prompted this week’s FBI raids.
According to the indictment, one of the defendants,
Fengling Liu, colluded with his fellow immigration lawyers and submitted over 200 asylum applications based on fabricated claims. Another defendant, John Wang, set up a small office on 32 East Broadway and filed more than 1,055 political asylum applications in the past year. The number was found to be staggering for his small law firm.
Another defendant, immigration lawyer Vanessa Bandrich, was originally an employee
at Fengling Liu’s law office. But Liu was afraid that the overwhelming number of clients would draw the attention of law enforcement agencies. To be safe, Liu helped Bandrich open her own firm across the street. Although the two firms were separated by one street and looked independent of one another, they actually split their profits. Both firms charged $10,000 to $15,000 per client. The clients had to first make a deposit, ranging from $1,000 to several thousand dollars, and pay the rest after they were granted asylum .
Frank Liu points out that political asylum is one way to obtain lawful status, but not everyone qualifies. However, many clients believed that they could just purchase the asylum status. Accordingly, many lawyers saw the chance of making a profit and took the risk.
Liu says with a smile that he often saw the same church employees testifying in immigration court. He understands that religious persecution exists in China, but the number of cases and the similarities in their stories makes applications filed on such basis questionable. H
e finds it hard to believe that immigration agencies had not noticed this trend before. But Liu adds that immigration courts had already become wary of Chinese political asylum claims. This new arrests will undoubtedly lower the credibility of Chinese asylum-seekers and lower the chance of getting asylum even more.