After a much-awaited decision, Amos Yee will likely soon have the chance to breathe the air of freedom. On September 21, 2017, the Board of Immigration Appeals (the "Board" or "BIA") dismissed the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) appeal opposing asylum in the case of Amos Yee. The Board wholeheartedly agreed with the decision of the Honorable Immigration Judge Samuel Cole, who on March 24, 2017, granted Amos Yee asylum based on persecution by the Singapore government because of Yee's political beliefs. (See the decision of the Board,
On April 3, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appealed the ruling, arguing that the Immigration Judge made errors of fact and law.
and DHS submitted written arguments to the BIA on May 11, 2017. ICE has kept Yee in detention since December 17, 2016, moving him to three different detention centers. He is currently at the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee, Illinois.
In a unanimous decision by a three-member panel, the BIA wrote that they agreed "with the Immigration Judge that the cumulative harm in this case rose to the level of persecution, which entitles the applicant [Amos Yee] to a presumption of a well-founded fear, that has not been rebutted." The Board agreed with Judge Cole that Singapore's prosecution of Amos Yee "was a pretext" to silence his political opinions. They highlighted the fact that in reaching his decision the Judge "relied on severe mistreatment of the applicant, including being imprisoned with only adults and being placed in a mental institution with difficult conditions." The objective facts were supported by Yee's testimony, his expert witnesses, and volumes of corroborating evidence from the United Nations, international human rights organizations, and independent media reports from around the world. Grossman Law welcomes and applauds the Board's objective and well-reasoned decision.
The case will now be remanded to the Immigration Court in Chicago to allow DHS the opportunity to complete or update any pending security investigations or examinations. While a date has not been set for entry of the final order, it is likely to be soon, especially given the amount of time Mr. Yee has been detained at U.S. tax-payer expense. The possibility also remains for a DHS appeal, though this is unlikely given the Board's unambiguous decision.
Much has been made about the case of Mr. Amos Yee since his arrival in the United States last December. Mr. Yee, an 18-year-old former child actor, is an outspoken critic of the government of Singapore, best known for his use of social media and for language which many considered offensive and vulgar. He cut a divisive figure, engendering the respect and ire of many. Those who revered him did so because he was unafraid to speak his mind about what he considered to be an oppressive dictatorship in Singapore. Those who reviled him, cited to his use of offensive language as an incitement to violence. Mr. Yee made clear, both in his postings and his testimony before the Immigration Court, that he opposes the use of any type of violence.
Yee remained in detention during the pendency of DHS's appeal, or for nine months. Although Grossman Law expects Yee to be released today, we decry ICE's decision to detain Mr. Yee, especially after his asylum case was granted and after DHS made no arguments, nor presented evidence, that Yee is a threat to national security or to the public. The United States should comply with its obligations to protect those who are unable to return to their home countries. Grossman Law calls on ICE and the administration to revisit its detention policies and condemns the prolonged detention of those fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States.
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