China, US to streamline repatriation

Updated: 2015-04-14 11:45

By Paul Welitzkin in New York(China Daily USA)

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China and the United States agreed to coordinate efforts to send suspected corrupt Chinese officials back to the mainland and speed up deportation proceedings involving Chinese nationals in the US.

Both sides have agreed to streamline the repatriation process as a result of a meeting last week between US Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Jeh Johnson and Chinese officials in Beijing. China and the US will work closely on tracking down and repatriating Chinese fugitives by enhancing intelligence sharing, strengthening judicial cooperation and exchanging updates of important cases regularly, according to a statement from China's Ministry of Public Security.

China has agreed to expedite the return of the more than 39,000 Chinese citizens currently in the United States who are at some stage in the process of being deported, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Attorney Jae S. Lee of the Lee Law Firm in New York said many of them face deportation for several reasons including criminal convictions, illegal entry, overstays of visas, security grounds and health grounds.

"While I have no way of knowing the full details of this new plan since it was just announced, this plan most likely concerns expediting the deportation of those who have already been ordered deported by an immigration judge or a customs official," Lee wrote in an e-mail Monday.

He said that under current law the US government cannot deport someone without the cooperation of that person's home country.

Frustrating to the US, Lee noted, are cases in which convicted criminals are transferred to immigration detention after serving their prison terms. If they don't get travel documents from their home country, then by law, that person must be released after 180 days.

Those awaiting deportation back to China do have legal avenues to appeal, Lee said. He said they can apply for asylum protection; cancellation of removal if they have lived in the US for a long period, have displayed good moral character, and their removal would cause an extreme hardship to a US relative; and some who have married US citizens or who have US-born children can apply for green cards despite their illegal status.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell University in New York, said many of the legal options mentioned by Lee are difficult to obtain "because of the way the law is structured".

"For example, it is not easy to obtain asylum because you have to show that you will be persecuted and not just discriminated against if you go back to a particular country," he said.

He added that foreign nationals are generally required to apply for asylum in the first year they are in the US.

China has placed a high priority on tracking down corrupt officials who have fled to the US and other countries, transferring their ill-gotten gains.

Earlier this year a total of 680 fugitives suspected of economic crimes had been repatriated to China as a result of the "Fox Hunt" operation launched last July, the Ministry of Public Security said. Of the 680 suspects, 208 were involved in economic crimes involving over 10 million yuan ($1.61 million), 74 of which were involved in cases involving over 100 million yuan.

Johnson and Chinese Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun also agreed to share more information about the cross-border movements of foreign terrorist fighters. Johnson and Guo intend to establish cyber discussions between DHS and the Ministry of Public Security, in coordination with other relevant agencies, to achieve cooperation and set a path to re-establishing a full government to government cyber dialogue.

(China Daily USA 04/14/2015 page3)