Chinese Asylum Seekers Worried After Law Firm Raids

On Dec. 18, 26 people in Chinatown including lawyers, paralegals, translators and church employees were arrested by the FBI and charged with participating in an immigration fraud schemes. The translation below is a follow-up article addressing the concerns of the clients who filed their asylum application through those accused law offices.

Last month’s FBI raids on law firms in Chinatown has caused clients of those firms to worry whether this would interfere with the status of their asylum applications. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Last month’s extensive FBI raid on many Chinese law firms stirred up anxiety among the accused law firms’ immigration clients, including those whose applications have already been decided and those who are pending.

One client, Chen (an alias), had already obtained a green card. But even so, he received a notice two weeks ago stating that his case would be re-examined by Immigration Court. He believes the letter stems from the federal investigation into the law office that represented him during his asylum application.

Many of the law offices that were shut down by the FBI raid have recently re-opened. The court hearings for the immigration lawyers began on Jan. 3.

Those clients who are currently applying for asylum worry that their application may be hindered by the investigation and are considering transferring their case to another law firm. On the other hand, former clients whose applications had been approved worry that they will be implicated and their asylum cases reopened.

According to a friend of Chen, the Law Offices of Fengling Liu, located at 2 East Broadway on the sixth floor, had a high success rate for asylum cases in the past few years. Chen, who came to the U.S. from the Fujian Province, entrusted the Law Offices of Fengling Liu with his asylum petition under religious prosecution. He was granted asylum and obtained his green card about eight or nine months ago.

About two weeks ago, Chen received a letter from Immigration Court, informing him that his political asylum case was being re-examined and giving him a date to appear in court. His friend revealed that Chen received this notice a couple of days after the FBI raid in which Fengling Liu was arrested and accused of immigration fraud. He is highly suspicious that the re-examination of Chen’s case has something to do with the raid.

Chen’s friend also said that after the FBI raid, the employees of the law offices gave clients assurances that political asylum cases that had already been decided would not be re-examined. However, Chen received the letter and although he suspects that the notification came because the law office that represented him was accused of immigration fraud, the letter did not mention the investigation. It did say that his case was suspected of containing false information and was currently being re-examined.

Chen’s friend also entrusted his asylum case to one of the law firms under investigation. His asylum was granted a year ago and he’s thinking about applying for a green card, but seeing what happened to his friend, he worries that he too may get entangled. As a result, he decided not to apply for a green card until the situation clears.

After the federal arrests, questions about whether an asylum case will be re-examined due to the law office’s alleged involvement in fraud filled immigration forums and fed growing rumors. Immigration lawyer Frank Liu says that there are usually two circumstances in which Immigration Court will re-examine a case.

The first arises when a person who gained legal status through the political asylum of a relative has a change of status during the year he or she is waiting to apply for a green card. When that person applies for naturalization, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) re-examines the whole application process. If any problems are found, the green card would be withdrawn and the case would be reconsidered.

On the other hand, if the asylum seeker’s case was reported by someone or federal agencies had any suspicions of false information, the case would be re-examined. The re-examination would focus primarily on the evidence the asylum seeker provided during the application. The asylum seeker must appear in court and submit any necessary evidence that would prove the truthfulness of the application. If he or she is able to demonstrate everything is accurate, legal status may be regained.

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