By Tequila Minsky
A federal judge ordered the immediate release Wednesday night of the Flushing man separated from his family and detained during a green card interview.
On May 23, Xiu Qing You reported to Immigration and Custom Enforcement on what he thought would be a simple application interview for a green card. That day turned into his family’s current nightmare when his wife, Yu Mei Chen, was asked to leave the room and You was taken into custody and transported to a New Jersey facility run by ICE, where he is slated for deportation.
Nearly 100 people, including immigration advocates and elected officials, gathered at Foley Square in Manhattan Monday morning, joining a rally called by the Asian American Federation and member organizations to protest the separation of You from his family.
The protest, along with a letter sent to ICE signed by elected officials — including U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) — helped secure You’s release.
“The ruling to release Xiuqing You is wonderful news,” Meng said. “His fight is not finished but I’m very happy for his wife and two young children. I’m also pleased to have intervened in his case. But as we welcome this development, let’s not forget about the many other families who still remain separated tonight.”Shortly after his arrival into the United States from China 18 years ago, You applied for asylum fearing persecution for his Catholic faith. It was denied. Since then, he married and has two children — ages 4 and 6 — all of whom are U.S. citizens. There has been a deportation order in place since 2002.
At Monday’s rally, Jo-Ann Yoo, of the Asian American Federation, noted how You built a life for himself in this country, started a business, paid taxes and became an employer, contributing to the economy.
“He now has been sitting in detention for almost a month under the stress of deportation,” she said. “One of the dads who didn’t get a (Father’s Day) call yesterday was Mr. You.”
Yoo said that 70 percent of Asians are immigrants, and reminded the crowd how important immigration issues are to the community.
“We are here to fight so Mr. You doesn’t become part of this country’s shameful deportation statistic,” she said. “We demand that Mr. You be reunited with his family while his attorney completes his asylum appeal.”
You’s lawyer, Yee Ling Poon, briefly listed the legal strategies, including reopening his asylum appeal for fear of persecution and trying to get an injunction for a stay of deportation in federal court. She mentioned the toll of splitting up this family and the pressure and distress experienced by his wife.
You’s wife stood in the front row, clutching a photo that reminded her of her family in happier times. The photo also displayed a message: “Let our father go home!”
Others held signs in support of You that read, “Families belong together,” “Stop bullying immigrants,” “Dividing Families will not strengthen America,” “No borders on stolen land,” and “Abolish ICE,” among others.
John Park, of MinKwon — a Flushing-based social and economic justice organization — spoke eloquently and emotionally about how this is not just an Asian or Latin issue, but a crisis that affects all immigrant communities.
“Today is all about the family. It is like torture on a minute-to-minute basis that your family could be torn apart,” he said, addressing Yu Mei Chen. “This is not just about today, but about keeping the pressure on, supporting the families in our community, today, the next day, until we fix this, until we get this president out.”
Among elected officials who spoke at the rally was Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), the first Chinese-American to represent Chinatown in the City Council. She spoke about her own family’s immigration journey to the United States — her undocumented father brought the family from Hong Kong so they could have a better life.
Meng had issued a statement Monday in support of You and his family.
“This case is the latest example of how the administration’s cruel immigration policies are destroying lives. Xiuqing You is a hardworking individual who wants nothing more than to better the life of his family and have his shot at the American dream,” she said. “Detaining him as he appeared for his scheduled adjustment of status interview is unjust, and I will be leading a letter to ICE on his behalf.
“You has no criminal history and poses no threat to our city or nation. His wife and 4- and 6-year-old daughters are distraught by his absence and will suffer financial hardships if they are not reunited with him,” she added. “In the wake of Father’s Day, I renew my call for the administration to stop separating families. Destroying the lives of families and removing parents from young children is mean-spirited and wrong. I will be closely monitoring You’s case in the days ahead.”
Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) also released a statement Monday demanding You’s release from ICE custody.
“Mr. You is part of a sad and frankly un-American trend that has seen many people who are just trying to make a life in the U.S. end up behind bars,” Johnson said. “We must fight these un-American incarcerations. They hurt not only the You family, but all Americans who care about decency and justice. … I want the You family to know that New Yorkers are here for you. We will stand together so that our voices are heard. Our message is simple: Innocent families should never be kept apart by the U.S. government.”