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

Presidential order frees Golden Venture refugees; others ignored

Terri Palmquist welcomes one of the Chinese women to freedom in America!

February 28, 1997

On June 6, 1993, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) incarcerated a "huddled mass" of Chinese refugees, just a short distance from the Statue of Liberty. After over 3 1/2 years of incarceration as "non-criminal aliens" (a total of 195 weeks, or 1,364 days, behind bars), the remaining refugees from the "Golden Venture" finally began to fulfill their "yearning to breathe free."

Nine refugees, three women and six men, were individually released over the last few days of February from the Lerdo Detention Facility near Bakersfield. Two of the refugees will remain in California; the others have been sent by the INS to New York, although they had expressed their desire to stay in California where Voice For Life had made arrangements for sponsors and assistance. In York, Pennsylvania, 38 men from the Golden Venture were released on February 26.

Release has been delayed for Qu Chun Lin, one of the "Golden Venture" men who has been incarcerated in the Lerdo facility. Fourteen other Chinese refugees continue to be incarcerated in the Lerdo Detention Facility, with no apparent prospects for freedom. Ten of these 14 refugees also base their asylum claims on the fact that they were victims of China's forced abortions or sterilizations.

Although Congress had established a new law in late September of 1996 which grants asylum to victims of forced abortion and forced sterilization, ths INS continued to resist efforts to free the refugees. In early January 1997, two Chinese men were released from York, Pennsylvania.

On January 21, 11 congressmen met to discuss the plight of the refugees. The congressmen agreed to send letters to President Clinton, once again requesting him to release these political prisoners.

In early February, CBN News' 700 Club broadcast a report on the Chinese refugees. This broadcast, along with various reports on Christian radio stations, motivated many people to call the White House, asking the President to release the refugees.

At the same time, Rep. William F. Goodling of York, Pennsylvania, made several efforts to personally bring the plight of the refugees to the attention of President Clinton. Goodling approached Clinton after his State of the Union Address to express his concerns about the fact that the refugees were still incarcerated.

Goodling arranged for a personal meeting with Clinton, and showed him several pieces of art which were made by the Chinese men in the York prison. As Clinton admired the art, Goodling emphasized the tragedy that people with such talent would be incarcerated without cause for such a long time.

A few days later, Clinton phoned Goodling to inform him that, against the advice of some of his cabinet members, he was instructing the INS to free the refugees. On February 14, the INS issued a public statement explaining that the Golden Venture refugees would soon be granted humanitarian parole.

The refugees have not been granted asylum; their cases must each be individually handled by the immigration courts. Humanitarian parole permits them to be temporarily free until a final determination has been made in their case. Some of the refugees could still eventually be deported, depending upon the decisions rendered by the immigration courts.

Voice For Life will continue to offer assistance to the refugees and monitor the progress of their cases until they have been granted asylum.

Terri Palmquist and a refugee: finally, no walls of glass keep them apart!

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