Chinese top Chicago asylum caseload

Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng arrives at New York University, where he is expected to attend law school. The human rights activist is best known for his fight against China’s one-child policy. [Photo by Angel Chevrestt/ZUMAPRESS.com]

Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng arrives at New York University, where he is expected to attend law school. The human rights activist is best known for his fight against China’s one-child policy. [Photo by Angel Chevrestt/ZUMAPRESS.com]

The news: Days before Hilary Rodham Clinton’s May arrival in China, blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng sought protection at the U.S. Embassy after escaping house arrest. Instead of asylum, he was granted a visa and passport to study law at New York University.

Behind the news: Chicago’s seven immigration judges heard 2,844 asylum cases and granted asylum to 1,621 seekers between fiscal years 2005 and 2010. An average of 12.8 percent of each judge’s asylum caseload involved Chinese applicants, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of federal data maintained by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse project.

Albanian applicants took up the next highest caseload, with 5.9 percent, followed by Iraqis and Pakistanis, who made up 4.5 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.

Nationwide, 10,709 out of 30,329 Chinese applicants were granted asylum between fiscal years 2008 and 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Had Chen sought asylum, he had a well-grounded fear of persecution in China—“a key ingredient to qualifying for asylum to the United States,” said Frank Jannuzi, head of Amnesty International’s Washington, D.C., office.

Amnesty International has worked with other human rights groups to make sure the U.S. government did not let its guard down on Chen’s case, Jannuzi said. But he gave more credit to the Chinese individuals who helped Chen in his “Houdini-like” escape. “The most heroic champions for human rights are the Chinese people themselves, people like Chen, but there are thousands of others,” Jannuzi said.

Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, which seeks to spread awareness of China’s one-child policy, said the jailing, torture and mistreatment of Chen is “what happens to people inside of China if they try to talk about the one-child policy.”

“People who are inside of China cannot advocate,” she said.

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