On March 24, 2017, the Honorable Immigration Judge Samuel B. Cole granted Amos Yee's asylum application. Judge Cole concluded that the Singapore government persecuted Yee on account of his political opinion, and that Yee is deserving of asylum as a matter of discretion. Yee, who has been in U.S. immigration detention for more than 90 days, since December 16, 2016, is now immediately eligible for release.
"[Yee's] prosecution, detention and general maltreatment at the hands of the Singapore authorities constitute persecution on account of Yee's political opinions. Yee is a young political dissident, and his application for asylum is granted."
-Decision of Immigration Judge Samuel B. Cole (Mar. 24, 2017)
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security actively opposed Yee's application for asylum, claiming that the Singapore government legitimately prosecuted Yee under laws of general applicability. Judge Cole disagreed. In his 13-page written decision, Judge Cole stated that "it is clear" that the Singapore government's criminal prosecution of Yee for "wounding religious feelings" and "obscenity" was "just a pretext to silence his opinions."
Relying on the substantial evidence that Yee's
counsel submitted to the Court, Judge Cole wrote that the Singapore government controls the mainstream media and "has enacted legislation to constrain" dissent on social media. The Judge detailed the Singapore government's routine use of sedition laws to arrest and silence online dissidents. Judge Cole concluded that Yee's 2015 arrest and convictions clearly constituted past persecution on account of Yee's political opinion.
A redacted version of the Judge's decision is available here
. Note that redactions are meant to protect the privacy of one of the witnesses in the case.
Grossman Law, LLC
applauds Judge Cole's decision as a public pronouncement supporting the right of individuals to criticize their government. The right to free speech is sacred, even when such speech is considered offensive. The decision timely underscores the vital need for an independent judiciary in a functioning democracy. It further affirms our country's leadership in defending the basic human right of all people to freely express themselves.
The Department of Homeland Security has 30 days (until April 24, 2017) to file an appeal. If the Government fails to appeal, the decision will become final. In the interim, Grossman Law has contacted ICE in Chicago to secure Yee's immediate release.
While the decision is a success, it is startling to consider that Yee, a refugee, was detained longer in the United States than in the country that persecuted him. Grossman Law strongly decries the use of prolonged detention of asylum seekers as contrary to internationally accepted principles of human rights.
Sandra Grossman is available to respond to media inquiries regarding Yee's case. Please direct all inquiries to
. Interested parties may also contact Singapore Human Rights Advocate Shelley Thio (Community Action Network) at
For up-to-date status on Yee's release, contact the Dodge County Detention Facility at 920-386-3743.