Voice For Life: speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves

Chinese woman brutalized in Lerdo jail, then deported

November 8, 1996

A Chinese women was recently subjected to extreme brutality as she was incarcerated in the Kern County Sheriff's Department's Lerdo Detention Facility north of Bakersfield. After many citizens complained to the Sheriff's Department about the incident, the young woman was deported to China.

Lindy Smith, the Lerdo officer involved in the incident, has often subjected the Chinese refugees to harsh treatment, according to eyewitness accounts from Lerdo inmates. (The refugees also claimed that not all Lerdo officers treat them harshly. Several of the officers are reportedly very kind to the women.)

The incident began when Smith told Lin Yen that she was in the wrong bed. Lin had been sleeping on a top bunk, but when she returned from an interview with immigration officials, Smith told her to move to another bed. The following day, another officer allowed Lin to return to her top bunk. Lin remained on the top bunk for three days, until Smith returned to duty.

On Sunday, August 25, at midnight, Lindy Smith entered the dark room where the Chinese women were sleeping. Finding Lin Yen on the top bunk, Smith pulled her hair, and threw her to the ground, apparently using a "pain-compliance" hold on her neck, in spite of the fact that Lin was not resisting her. Smith forcefully twisted Lin's arms behind her, and held her on the ground as she called for assistance from three other officers. Smith then handcuffed Lin and told her that she was being taken to a "single cell" (solitary confinement) and that she would "never ever get out."

The day after the incident, several Chinese women called Terri and Tim Palmquist to tell them what happened. "We have had calls from them regarding various problems over the past two years, but this time they were obviously traumatized," said Tim Palmquist.

Tim Palmquist encouraged citizens to complain to the Sheriff's Department about Lindy Smith's treatment of Lin Yen and Lin's continued subjection to solitary confinement. After 10 days, Lin was finally released from solitary confinement, being allowed to return to the dormitory-style room where the rest of the Chinese refugees are housed. However, she was not allowed to go back to her top bunk, but she was told to return to the bed Lindy Smith had assigned her to.

Tim Palmquist reported that when he visited Lin Yen on September 4, the day she was released from solitary confinement, Lin still had visible bruises on her left arm.

About a week later, Lin Yen was removed from the Lerdo facility. The Chinese women told the Palmquists that Lin was being taken back to San Francisco for further interviews with immigration officials. However, she was instead returned to China, against her will. Lin wrote a letter to the Chinese women in Lerdo, which was received on October 5. Lin said that the immigration officials put her on a plane, and she did not even know where they were taking her until she arrived in China.

"Why was Lin Yen singled out for deportation?" asked Tim Palmquist. "Could this be an effort to cover up the injuries she received in this incident?"

Lin Yen was deported just days before Congress passed a new law which grants asylum to victims of forced abortion and forced sterilization. The remainder of the Chinese refugees continue to be incarcerated in Lerdo, pending reconsideration of their cases under the new law.

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