IN CHINA, NO RIGHTS TO LIFE

This thoughtless physical, done without warning or consultation with Jiaqi's attorney, does not call up the image of the Statue of Liberty, but it does reflect the INS perception that at times it looks like the entire Third World is climbing over America's white picket fence. These particular refugees have escaped the Droogish nightmare of Red Chinese environmentalists and are ensnared now in the grinding bureaucracy of immigration court.

It is truly no man's land.
Evidence, in any conventional sense, simply does not exist. Neither side can subpoena witnesses from Beijing. While the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney are learned and civil, the entire proceeding is murky at best. No one in Arizona speaks the particular dialect used by this boatload of Chinese peasants, so the court-appointed translator makes do with Mandarin, the tongue of the educated and elite. When a Los Angeles translator is located who does speak the correct dialect, his English is fortune-cookie rudimentary.

The law is clear that if the Communists apply harsh birth-control laws across the board, regardless of race, color or political creed--and that is just how the Marxists do it--there is no persecution and the refugees cannot be granted asylum. The law is equally clear that the judge can cite plenty of judicial exceptions, allowing in the desperate as he chooses. While the judge and the attorneys, each with 20-plus years of Western education, debate and consider events in mainland China of which they have absolutely no knowledge, a Chinese peasant who was working the Asian earth on his hands and knees last winter sits in unknowing stasis.

Alice's tea party made as much sense.
On September 9, a woman, Ping Woo, walked into the courtroom where her plea for asylum was ready to be heard. A poor peasant who dropped out of school after five years of instruction to keep her father's house, Woo had married a village farmer before running afoul of Chinese functionaries. Her personal possessions and toiletries have been repeatedly stolen by American prisoners in the seven months she has been caged. Woo has yet to adjust to jailhouse food.

Though the immigration judge smiled at her before the official proceedings began, she did not return the official's courtesy. Instead, she worried fingernails already bitten down to the quick.

And now something appeared to be going wrong. The translator explained that her attorney would not be coming. Would it be all right if this other lawyer, the one standing right here, took her case?

She shook her head, to say yes, but there was no way of knowing what went through her mind. Woo could not have guessed that the substitute attorney, Charles Kuck, represented a remarkable stroke of good fortune for her. He is one of those young attorneys whose belly still burns with a passion for justice. And he navigates the endless maze of immigration law skillfully.

Gently, Kuck coaxed out her story for the court.
The mother of two healthy boys, one 8, the other 4, Woo said she nonetheless ached for a little girl. And so she became pregnant and prayed.

Government agents appeared at her home in the middle of the night during her fifth month of pregnancy, claimed Woo.

"I was so scared and crying and begging them to let me keep my baby . . . but they did not listen to me. Instead, they pushed me into their truck."
Taken bodily to a local hospital, Woo was forced to submit to an abortion. Once the fetus, female, was removed from her womb, Woo's body collapsed in exhaustion and despair.

"I was deeply hurt both physically and emotionally after the abortion. I felt so helpless as a mother at my inability to protect my unborn baby from being cruelly destroyed. I was so depressed . . ."
Woo seemed to view her tragedy as fate. Her words described what happened almost as if the forces of nature intervened rather than government brutes and medical stooges: "I just . . . my wish could not come true. My baby daughter could not be born."

After many days in a hospital bed, Woo slowly regained the will to live. She still had her two boys, after all, and she was young enough, 29, to reasonably hope that there was time, plenty of time, to get pregnant again and have a little girl.

While still convalescing, Woo was informed that immediately after the abortion the doctors had also sterilized her.

This final, devastating bit of news was given to the bedridden Woo offhandedly, by a nurse.

After checking out of the hospital, Woo began making plans to leave China and join her husband.

When she had become pregnant with her third child, in August 1989, the Communists had threatened her husband with castration. One month later, he fled to America. Today, he lives surreptitiously and illegally in New York City.

In November 1991, she hugged and kissed her two boys and entrusted them to her sister.

Then she slipped over the border into Hong Kong.
From there Woo traveled to Thailand and then on to the Philippines. Using a phony passport, she flew to Hawaii, where the INS seized her.

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