唐人街的谎言工业:中国移民为留美瞎编故事申请避难成风,遭美当局严查

原文里面有一句话很有意思:为什么这个漏洞不能被关闭,因为政治因素: “There are people who want to embarrass China.”

而且这个稿件22号的版本里面有这句话,纽约时报正式的版本23号里面却把这句话删除了,只到“政治因素”。估计这句话政治不正确。

这叫千金买马骨,示范效应。不过这些谎言工业其实确确实实为天朝底层人民谋到了福利,拿到了绿卡。

中国移民为留美瞎编故事申请避难成风,遭美当局严查

译者: 达骜
原作者: KIRK SEMPLE, JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN and JEFFREY E. SINGER
发表时间:2014-02-24

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2012年12月,联邦调查局探员在唐人街东百老汇大道2号突袭搜查了一间律师楼,调查一件移民欺诈案。有30多人受到指控。

一名中国女人走进了唐人街的一家律师楼,要求面见自己的律师。她提交了在美国避难的申请,称曾为了遵守中国的计划生育政策,自己在中国被迫堕胎,现在正为要面见移民局官员而忐忑不安。

她有充分的理由担忧:她所谓的申请避难的理由,是由她律师的助手编造的,是假的。

但她的律师王约翰却让她尽管放心。 他说面试的过程很简单,她只需记住几个细节,就不会有纰漏。他用中文说:“你自己把自己搞得这么紧张,”“他们只会问你几个一样的烂问题。”

这位律师又补充说:“只要把话说圆就行了。”

这段于2010年12月进行的对话,被正在负责对纽约市华人进行移民欺诈情况进行大范围调查的联邦调查局人员悄悄录下了音。这次调查让至少30个人受到了起诉–律师(包括王先生)、律师的助手、翻译,甚至还有一位教堂的工作人员也在受审,他们被指教唆那些申请避难的人利用基督教的基本教义来妄称他们遭受了宗教迫害。他们全都因为用编造受迫害理由,来帮助数以百计的中国移民申请避难而受到起诉。

在王先生办公室进行的这次对话的内容(在最近公布的法庭文件上已被公开),让我们看到了难得一见的隐蔽在纽约的中国人申请避难的活动。

在美国,中国人申请避难的人数要比其他国家的人都要多,而在纽约的华人更是一马当先:在过去的六年里,那些没有面临被驱逐出境问题的中国移民,大约一半都是在纽约市提交他们的申请的。(正在处于被驱逐出境程序中申请避难人数的数据目前没有。)

在2012财政年度纽约联邦避难申请署收到的避难申请中,超过了62%都是由中国移民提交的,该署近年收到的中国移民的申请比紧随其后的十个国家的移民的申请加起来还要多。

虽然这种欺诈的程度到底有多大还不明了,但联邦有关部门现在对纽约所有的申请人都持怀疑态度。根据政府公布的数据,在2013财政年度,全美负责处理避难申请的部门批准了华人避难申请者中的40%。而在纽约市,负责避难申请的部门只批准了其中的15%。

纽约城市大学教授,纽约华侨问题专家彼得.邝说,在华人中,大部分申请避难的人多少都有造假问题是个公开的秘密,从编造受迫害的故事到伪造证明文件以及虚构证词等。

他说,对于那些想通过避难留在美国的人来说,“这根本不是对和错的问题。而是一个他们能否得到批准和通过什么手段得到批准的问题。”

在过去的十年里,不断扩大的帮中国人申请避难的行业和中国往美移民人数的增长及中国人持有临时签证赴美人数(其中一些人就是想长期逗留在美国)的增加趋势同步吻合。很多人都把纽约市当成他们的主要目的地。根据纽约市城市规划部门的统计,在2000年至2011年间,纽约市非在美出生的华人人口增长了三分之一,由261500人达到了超过350000人,华人现在即将超过多米尼加人而成为该市最大的移民群体。

随着越来越多的中国人都拼命想拿到在美国永久居住的身份,避难成了一个普遍被使用获取这种身份的办法:避难申请被批准的人可以马上去找工作,而且可以在一年后申请绿卡。由于这种需求不断增加,律师楼和其他专门从事申请避难申请工作的公司–更别说还有一帮专门造假的人和假律师–便开始在曼哈顿唐人街拥挤的写字楼中,及在法拉盛、皇后区和布鲁克林区的日落公园附近的华人社区的临街店面里遍地开花了。

这种买卖获利颇丰。有些公司对每项申请收费1000美元,然后再增加各种额外费用,总额可以高达1万多美元-这对大多数申请人来说都是极贵的,他们中的很多人都是饭馆和建筑工地里的工人、保姆和美甲师等。

但是一些从事这种生意的人说,他们主要是出于政治和道义的原因而非为了钱才干这种事。

唐人街一家移民律师楼的老板苗大卫说:“我们干的工作就像是逃生线的最后一环。”他和王先生一样也是被调查受到起诉的人之一;这件案子和九起公诉案及一系列的突击检查一起于2012年12月被公之于众。他不承认犯有阴谋进行移民欺诈的罪。

他在一次受访时说:“如果我们不做这些事,他们就会被遣送回中国。”“我们是在救人命。”

申请书堆积如山,政府部门根本处理不过来,压得处理避难申请的政府官员和法官喘不过气来。纽约避难申请署的副主任把造成欺诈的原因部分归咎于申请的量太大,她说她把处理避难申请的工作人员增加到三倍,来清理积压了两年的申请。

这位副主任艾希莉.考迪利-米瑞劳在11月份写给一位联邦法官的信中说:这些欺诈“让整个避难体系受到严重破坏。”

2012年进行的这些公诉似乎可以至少暂时抑制住中国人在纽约申请避难的大潮。但当被要求公开谈一下华人通过申请避难搞欺诈的问题有多严重时,大多数政府官员都拒绝回答。

但私下里,他们却同意对华侨的普遍看法:这一问题普遍存在,想通过一件高调处理的案子来解决这一问题根本不可能。

美国长久以来就有为那些逃避迫害的外国人提供庇护的传统。无论是否合法来到美国,移民在来到美国的一年内都可以申请避难。他们必须证明他们不能或不愿意回到自己的国家是因为他们的种族、宗教信仰、国籍或因为他们是某一特定社会或政治组织的成员,他们有“充分的理由害怕受到迫害”。

在2012财政年度,全美有约56400份避难申请书被递交到了移民局的避难申请署或法院。在同一年里,有约29500人的避难申请获得批准,是自2002年(这一年批准了37000人)以来最多的一年。

专家们说,伪造避难申请是移民欺诈中最常见的一种方式,部分原因是因为这种伪造很难被识破。因为很多申请都是根据在武装冲突或政治动乱中发生的事情提出的,美国有关当局很难对其陈述和相关证明文件进行核实。

有关官员说,虽然近年来华人申请避难的群体受到了越来越严格的审查,但避难欺诈却涉及到所有的移民群体,比如突然出现在那些发生动乱的国家的人群中,如几内亚人因为发生政治动乱,阿富汗人为逃避战争,俄罗斯人为了躲避国内对同性恋的敌视,墨西哥人为逃离因贩毒引发的暴力而寻求避难等。

在中国人中,大多数申请避难的人提出的原因无法就那么几个,要么是因为为遵守中国的计划生育法而被迫堕胎或做节育,或是因为他们衣钵了基督教而怕遭受迫害,或因为参加了一些被封杀了的组织等。

政府官员和研究这一问题的专家说,虽然其中很多这种理由是成立的,但大量的都是假的。邝先生说,这种假很容易造。

他介绍说:“相关法律本身就有很多漏洞,但因为政治原因却无法弥补。”

有时候这种造假包括被美化的故事让事情看上去更真实可信。而其他的说辞,一看就是瞎编乱造的。

编造的故事情节和相关文件在客户手中传来传去,只需把名字和日期改一下–甚至有时候律师连这个都忘了做。

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在唐人街有一家律师楼的苗大卫不承认犯有移民欺诈罪。他说:“我们是在救人命。”

在唐人街和法拉盛接受采访的几位移民说,他们的申请是根据受迫害的真实情况提出的,但一些证明他们说辞的文件却是伪造的。(很多接受本文采访的中国移民都要求匿名。)

一个路子很广的在皇后区台湾人社区生活的人说,几年前他在皇后区的一家移民律师楼工作时,他的一项工作就是用图像处理软件,把客户的头像添加到那些挨过中国警察打的人的文件照片上。他说:“所有的东西都是伪造的。”

在法拉盛和别的中国人居住区,很多教堂都给其教民提供收据,以帮助他们向避难申请署证明他们是基督教徒。中国人都知道去教堂的人里不信教的人和信教的人一样多。

在2012年抓起来的几十个人中,包括有至少十家律师楼里的雇员,他们被指为数百人“精心编造虚假故事”,并教他们怎样在避难申请面试和在法庭上撒谎。检察官说,其中有一个律师会先在空白的避难申请表上签上名,然后让其他人填上编造的故事,而自己根本连看都不看。

控方的主要证人,曾经在几家律师楼里担任过助手并承认犯有移民欺诈罪的维克多.尤说,他会按照客户的年龄和受教育程度编造一个符合他身份的故事。他上周在法庭作证时说,他会把一个没受过什么教育的人谎称是轮子,因为这最容易被记住。对那些受过至少高中以上教育的年轻人一般就把他们说成是基督徒。

检察官介绍说,在客户接受避难申请审查人员的面试时,如果他们突然说的和编的故事不相符时,一些翻译就会不按客户的话来翻译。

检察官说,在法拉盛一所教堂工作的被告林丽莹(音译),会给那些准备用宗教理由申请避难的移民进行有偿基督教基本知识的培训,并教给他们怎么撒谎。

上周三开始对林女士的移民欺诈罪进行审判。虽然她没有对本文发表意见,但她的律师肯尼思.保罗在法庭上说,她是一位虔诚的基督徒,她的“目的是通过教授基督教知识,帮助那些人找到上帝 。”

政府官员介绍说,在受到控告的八名律师中,王先生是捞钱最多的一个:在2010到2012年间,他的律师楼一共向纽约避难申请署提交了1300份避难申请。

他惯用的方法在他和那位中国客户谈话的录音中被曝光出来,她准备告诉移民官她因为在婚外怀孕而被迫堕胎。

王先生和他的一名助手点拨她要记清楚虚构故事情节的顺序:如什么时候停的经,敲的门,政府官员把她拉到一家诊所,在身体里放入医疗工具的感觉,她来美国的日子等。

他说避难对他来说就像探囊取物:像她这种情况申请下来不会有一点儿问题。他说:“这太简单了。”

一多半被告现在都承认有罪,包括王先生,他于12月被叛两年缓刑。

2012年进行的这次公诉,让人对这一行业的所有参与者都产生了疑问,包括那些有合理原因的申请人,及那些品行良好有大量华人客户的律师楼。根据联邦有关当局的数据,在进行突击检查的头一年,向纽约避难申请署提交的申请量大幅增加,在2012财政年度达到了顶峰为7000份,而2006年只有1700份。但在突击检查后,申请量大幅下降,2013年降到了4300份。移民官不愿谈论下降的原因。

在突击检查后,大量申请避难的人蜂拥至唐人街和法拉盛很多执法部门和移民管理机构,担心自己的避难申请遇到麻烦。

在康乃迪克州一家中餐馆当厨师,请了一天假专门来查看自己申请进展情况的航曾(音译)说:“我们想找到一位法律专家,依法来办事。”他是一大帮东百老汇大街2号客户中的一个,这家律师楼受到了联邦调查局的突击检查。

另一位厨师李波说,他和其他人都以为如果把事情交给律师去办,会一切顺利。他说:“他们代表了法律,是不是?”

在这起诉讼中,没有避难申请人受到起诉:办案人员都把责任归咎到律师,律师帮办和导演了造假的那些人身上。在12月对他的判决中,30出头的王先生说他之所以当上了一名移民律师是“因为我自己也是一个移民,想帮助来到美国的移民。”

把自己说成是“年轻没有经验”,他的语气有些懊悔,他说:“我知道当我参与造假时,我做了一个错误的决定。”

但是在采访中,其他牵涉到这起案子中的人却没什么悔意,还一再为自己的行为辩白。

有些人说他们是因为想帮助中国移民过上更好的生活才干这事的。他们辩解道,那些人费了那么大的劲儿才逃离了中国的高压统治,他们应该能在美国安顿下来。

在一家牵涉到本案的律师楼里当翻译的被告徐路(音译)说:“按照我的价值观,我做的事没错。”

他说自己的行为“虽然违法,但却是正义的。”“你帮助了那些弱势的人,你会受到爱戴,世界会记住你。”

Asylum fraud in Chinatown: industry of lies

By Kirk Semple, Joseph Goldstein and Jeffrey E. Singer THE NEW YORK TIMES

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NEW YORK — A Chinese woman walked into a law office in Chinatown and asked to see her lawyer. She had applied for asylum, claiming that she had been forced to get an abortion in China to comply with the country’s family-planning laws, and she was anxious about her coming interview with immigration officials.

She had good reason to be worried: Her claim, invented by her lawyer’s associates, was false.

But the lawyer, John Wang, told her to relax. The process, he said, was straightforward, and as long as she memorized a few details, everything would be fine. “You are making yourself nervous,” he said in Mandarin. “All you would be asked is the same few rubbish questions.”

“Just make it up,” the lawyer added.

The conversation, in December 2010, was secretly recorded by federal officials conducting a wide investigation of immigration fraud in New York’s Chinese population. The inquiry has led to the prosecution of at least 30 people — lawyers (including Wang), paralegals, interpreters and even an employee of a church, who is on trial, accused of coaching asylum applicants in basic tenets of Christianity to prop up their claims of religious persecution. All were charged with helping hundreds of Chinese immigrants apply for asylum using false tales of persecution.

The transcript of the conversation in Wang’s office, which was disclosed in a recent court filing, offered a rare look at the hidden side of the Chinese asylum industry in New York.

More Chinese immigrants apply for asylum than any other immigrant group in the country, with the Chinese population in New York leading the way: Over the past six years, about half of all applications filed by Chinese immigrants not facing deportation were submitted in New York City. (Comparable data for asylum applications from those in deportation proceedings was not available.)

In fiscal 2012, Chinese immigrants filed more than 62 percent of all asylum cases received by the federal asylum office in New York, which in recent years has received more Chinese applications than the next 10 nationalities combined.

Though the prevalence of fraud is unknown, federal officials appear to regard the applicant pool in New York with considerable suspicion. In fiscal 2013, asylum officers around the country granted 40 percent of all Chinese asylum requests, according to government data. In New York City, asylum officers approved only 15 percent.

Peter Kwong, a professor at the City University of New York and an expert on the Chinese population in New York, said it was an open secret in the Chinese community that most asylum applications were at least partly false, from fabricated narratives of persecution to counterfeit supporting documents and invented witness testimony.

To asylum-seekers, he said, “it’s not an issue of right or wrong. It’s an issue about whether they can get it and their means to get it.”

The growth in the Chinese asylum industry over the past decade has coincided with an increase in Chinese migration to the United States and in the number of Chinese arriving on temporary visas, some with the intention of staying. Many have made New York City their primary destination. Between 2000 and 2011, the foreign-born Chinese population in New York City grew by a third, to more than 350,000 from about 261,500, and is now on the verge of overtaking Dominicans as the city’s largest immigrant group, according to New York’s City Planning Department.

As an increasing number of Chinese have sought permanent immigration status here, asylum has become a popular way to achieve it: Asylum recipients are granted immediate permission to work and can apply for a green card a year later. Amid this rising demand, an ecosystem of law offices and other businesses specializing in asylum — not to mention a darker subculture of forgers and fake lawyers — has flourished in the crowded office buildings of Manhattan’s Chinatown and above storefronts along the bustling streets of Chinese enclaves in Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The trade has generated healthy revenues. Some firms’ fees start at $1,000 to handle a case; if successful, they demand a completion fee of up to $10,000 — steep for most of the applicants, many of whom are restaurant or construction workers, nannies and manicurists.

But some involved in the business say they are motivated more by politics and moral principles than by money.

“We are doing work like the last stop on the Underground Railroad,” said David Miao, the owner of an immigration law office in Chinatown. He was among those indicted in the wide-ranging investigation that also implicated Wang; the case became public with the unsealing of nine indictments and a series of dramatic raids in December 2012. He has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.

“If we didn’t do this, they will be sent back to China,” he said in an interview. “We save lives.”

The volume of petitions has clogged the federal bureaucratic machinery, overwhelming asylum officers and immigration judges. The deputy director of the New York asylum office blamed fraud, in part, for the deluge, and said she had tripled her team of asylum officers to dig out of a two-year backlog of cases.

The schemes “wreaked havoc on the asylum system as a whole,” the official, Ashley B. Caudill-Mirillo, wrote in a letter to a federal judge in November.

The 2012 indictments appear to have disrupted, at least temporarily, the surge of Chinese asylum applications in New York. But when asked to comment publicly about how extensive asylum fraud remains among Chinese applicants, most officials declined.

Speaking privately, however, they concurred with the prevailing opinion in the Chinese diaspora: that the problem is ubiquitous and that one high-profile case will not curb it.

The United States has a long tradition of offering refuge to foreigners fleeing persecution. Whether in the country legally or not, immigrants can petition for asylum within one year of arriving. They must show they are unable or unwilling to return to their country because they have “a well-founded fear of persecution” based on their race, religion, nationality or membership in a particular social or political group.

In fiscal 2012, about 56,400 asylum applications were filed in asylum offices or in courts throughout the country. In the same year, about 29,500 people were granted asylum, the most since 2002, when 37,000 received it.

False asylum petitions are among the most common forms of immigration fraud, in part because they are difficult to detect, experts said. Since many claims are based on events that took place amid armed conflict or political turmoil, the narratives and supporting documents can be hard for U.S. authorities to verify.

And while the Chinese asylum pool has drawn increasing scrutiny in recent years, asylum fraud cuts across all immigrant groups, officials say, cropping up among populations from societies in turmoil such as Guineans seeking refuge from political upheaval, Afghans fleeing war, Russians looking for sanctuary from homophobia and Mexicans running from drug violence.

Among the Chinese, the vast majority of applicants claim they were either forced to endure abortions or sterilization under China’s family planning laws or that they fear persecution based on their adherence to Christianity or their participation in banned groups like the Chinese Democracy Party and Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that has been labeled a cult by the government.

And while many such claims are legitimate, officials and industry specialists said, an untold number are not. Kwong said the cases were easy to fake.

“The law itself provides a huge loophole, and that loophole cannot be closed because of the politics,” he said. “There are people who want to embarrass China.”

Sometimes the fraud consists of little more than embellishing stories to make them seem more believable. Other times, the accounts are complete fiction.

Narratives and documents are recycled from client to client, with the names and dates changed — though sometimes the lawyers forget to do even that.

Several immigrants said in interviews in Chinatown and Flushing that while their cases were based on true stories of persecution, some of the documents supporting their claims were false and were provided either by the agencies handling their cases or by someone specializing in fraudulent documents. (Many Chinese immigrants interviewed for this article agreed to talk only on the condition of anonymity.)

A well-connected member of the Taiwanese community in Queens said that while working at an immigration law office in Queens several years ago, one of his tasks was to use Photoshop to superimpose clients’ faces onto file photos of people who had been beaten by the police in China. “Everything was prefabricated,” he said.

In Flushing and other Chinese enclaves, many churches distribute attendance receipts to help parishioners prove their Christian faith to asylum officers. It is widely believed in the Chinese community that the pews are full of as many nonbelievers as true believers. The dozens of people rounded up in 2012, including employees of at least 10 law firms, were accused of “weaving elaborate fictions” on behalf of hundreds of clients and coaching them on how to lie during their asylum interviews and in court. One of the lawyers would sign blank asylum petitions and let paralegals fill them out with stories he never reviewed, prosecutors said.

Victor You, a star witness for the prosecution who worked as an assistant at several law firms and pleaded guilty to immigration fraud, said he would craft a story based on characteristics like clients’ ages and schooling. He would feed the Falun Gong narrative to uneducated immigrants because it was easiest to remember, he said in court testimony last week. Christianity claims went to young immigrants with at least a high school education.

When clients veered off-script during interviews with asylum officers, prosecutors said, some interpreters would falsely translate the client’s words.

Liying Lin, a defendant who worked at a church in Flushing, would give paid lessons in the basics of Christianity for immigrants seeking asylum for religious reasons and would coach applicants on how to lie, prosecutors said.

Lin’s trial on immigration fraud began Tuesday. While she declined to comment for this article, her lawyer, Kenneth Paul, said in court that she was a devout Christian whose “goal was to help these individuals find God through the teachings of Christianity.”

Of the eight lawyers indicted, officials said, Wang was one of the most prolific. Between 2010 and 2012, his office filed more than 1,300 asylum petitions with the New York asylum office.

His methods were revealed in the recording of his discussion with the Chinese client, who was preparing to tell immigration officials that she had been forced to get an abortion because she had become pregnant out of wedlock.

Wang and a paralegal briefed her on the sequence of fictitious events she had to memorize: the missed period, the knock at the door, government officials hauling her to a clinic, the feeling of a medical tool inside her, the dates of her trip to the United States.

He said asylum was nearly a foregone conclusion: Cases like hers were getting approved without a problem. “It’s too easy,” he said.

More than half the defendants have pleaded guilty, including Wang, who was sentenced in December to two years of probation.

In the years before the raid, the flow of applications to the New York asylum office had risen sharply, peaking at about 7,000 in fiscal 2012, up from about 1,700 in 2006. But after the raid, the volume plummeted, to about 4,300 in 2013, according to federal data. Immigration officials refused to speculate on the cause of the drop.

In the days after the raids, law offices and immigration agencies in Chinatown and Flushing were swarmed by clients worried about their asylum requests.

“We were looking for an expert in the law to do things a legal way,” said Zeng Hang, a cook who took a day off from his job at a Chinese restaurant in Connecticut to check on the status of his case. He was among scores of clients at an office building in Chinatown raided by the FBI.

Li Bo, another cook, said he and others had assumed that if they were to entrust their cases to a lawyer, then they would be in good hands.

“We don’t know if our cases count as political asylum or not. We came to ask,” he said. “How can we not trust them?”

No asylum applicants were prosecuted in this case; officials have generally reserved their contempt for the lawyers, paralegals and others accused of orchestrating the frauds. At his sentencing in December, Wang, who is in his early 30s, explained that he had become an immigration lawyer “because I am also an immigrant and I want to help immigrants in this country.”

Describing himself as “young and inexperienced,” he struck a tone of remorse. “I know I made the wrong decision when I got involved in this fraud,” he said.

But in interviews, others involved in the schemes were not as contrite, rationalizing their actions.

Some said they were motivated by a compulsion to help Chinese immigrants make a better life for themselves. Those who had worked so hard to flee authoritarian rule in China, they argued, should be able to stay in the United States.

“According to my system of values, what I did is correct,” said Xu Lu, a defendant who worked as an interpreter at law firms implicated in the schemes.

“What you did is against the law, but it is righteous,” he said of his actions. “You helped the weak. And you will be loved and remembered by the world.”

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