The AP reports in the NY Times:
“A blogger from Singapore who was jailed for his online posts blasting his government was granted asylum to remain in the United States, an immigration judge ruled.
Amos Yee, 18, has been detained by federal immigration authorities since December when he was taken into custody at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Attorneys said he could be released from a Wisconsin detention center as early as Monday.
Judge Samuel Cole issued a 13-page decision Friday, more than two weeks after Yee’s closed-door hearing on the asylum application.
“Yee has met his burden of showing that he suffered past persecution on account of his political opinion and has a well-founded fear of future persecution in Singapore,” Cole wrote.
Yee left Singapore with the intention of seeking asylum in the U.S. after being jailed for several weeks in 2015 and 2016. He was accused of hurting the religious feelings of Muslims and Christians in the multiethnic city-state. Yee is an atheist.
Many of his blog and social media posts criticized Singapore’s leaders. He created controversy in 2015 as the city-state was mourning the death of its first prime minister and he posted an expletive-laden video about Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew just after his death.
Such open criticism of political leaders is discouraged in Singapore. The case raised questions about free speech and censorship and has been closely watched abroad.
Cole said testimony during Yee’s hearing showed that while the Singapore government’s stated reason for punishing him involved religion, “its real purpose was to stifle Yee’s political speech.” He said Yee’s prison sentence was “unusually long and harsh” especially for his age.
Singapore’s government criticized the decision.”
Mr. Yee was successfully represented by Maryland immigration attorney Sandra Grossman of Grossman Law LLC.
As I have mentioned before in this blog, most fully litigated U.S. Immigration Court cases today, particularly those involving asylum or criminal law, involve exceptionally complex, and often sensitive, issues of law and fact which can’t be fairly resolved in a one to two hour time block. Yet, most of the Administration’s recent enforcement initiatives seem to assume that Immigration Court is an “assembly line” and that U.S. Immigration Judges are more or less “assembly line workers” who can be detailed to obscure locations on demand and perhaps required to work “night shifts” to keep the “deportation railroad running at full throttle.”
But, due process is not an assembly line operation. It usually takes time, expertise, careful scholarship, and detailed fact-finding for U.S. Immigration Judges to produce fair decisions that will pass muster upon judicial review in the Circuit Courts of Appeals. (I note that the Administration’s first, high-profile attempt to “ram” an immigration case — “Travel Ban 1.0” — through a Court of Appeals was spectacularly unsuccessful.)
These days, most individuals who are represented by competent counsel and reach the “Individual (Merits) Hearing” stage have at least some plausible defenses to removal. Indeed, a 2016 study by TRAC Immigration showed that more than half (57%) of the total dispositions in U.S. Immigration Court favored the individual. http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/435/
And, this was during the Obama Administration which already was prioritizing so-called “serious criminals.” By expanding the “criminal alien” definition to include minor criminals and non-criminals, the Trump Administration will probably be taking on even more cases where it ultimately will fail to get a “final order of removal” unless concerted attempts are made to “game the system” to insure that individuals lose (for example, by denying individuals fair access to counsel or using prolonged detention in poor conditions as a device to persuade individuals to abandon their claims to remain in the US).