New York City’s Asian-American community is speaking out in support of a father of two young children who was recently detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Several civil rights groups, elected officials and other community members gathered in Manhattan for a rally on June 18, demanding the release of the dad, Xiu Qing You, who was arrested after he attended what he and his wife, Yu Mei Chen, believed to be a green card interview last month.
“Yesterday was Father’s Day, and Xiu Qing You, a husband and loving father of two young children, spent it at a detention center in New Jersey,” Yuh-Line Niou, a New York State Assembly member, said in a statement after the rally. “Mr. You was trying to do the right thing. He was navigating the system in order to secure his status, and still, he was separated from his wife and children and could be deported back to China at any time.”
Chen and their children are American citizens. The pair runs a nail salon in Connecticut. You came to the U.S. from China in 2000 but was issued an order of removal about two years later, after his application for asylum was denied.
Years later, You’s motion to reopen his case was dismissed. After Chen became a naturalized citizen in 2015, he applied for a green card. On May 23, the two dressed up for what they thought was a green card interview. When they arrived, they answered questions about their marriage, as is typical in such interviews.
At one point, Chen was ordered to leave the room while an officer questioned You regarding his order of removal. ICE agents then arrested him, taking him to a detention facility in New Jersey.
About 100 people attended the rally — including New York City Council member Margaret Chin and representatives from the offices of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Reps. Grace Meng and Nydia Velazquez — calling for You’s release as well as a stay of deportation so that his attorney, Yee Ling Poon, can help him reapply for asylum.
You, who is Catholic, feared persecution by the Chinese government because of his religion. While China’s relations with the Vatican have improved in recent years, a report by Freedom House shows that Catholics in the country still experience moderate levels of persecution.
“Trump’s deportation machine is not only separating families at the border but in our very backyard ― in our New York. We demand action to keep families together and put an end to this terror once and for all,” Steven Choi, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a statement.
Meng said in a statement after the rally that she will write to ICE regarding You’s situation, calling his detention during his interview “unjust.”
“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 wrote. “You has no criminal history and poses no threat to our city or nation. His wife and four and six year old children are distraught by his absence and will suffer financial hardships if they are not reunited with him.”
You’s detention occurred against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance unauthorized immigration policy, under which adults apprehended after crossing the border are jailed and criminally prosecuted, regardless of whether they are traveling with their children. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that from April 19 to May 31, border officials separated 1,995 children from 1,940 adults.
For now, You remains detained in New Jersey. The situation has been particularly hard on his daughter, 6-year-old Mia.
“Now that her father is not by her side at night, she says she’s afraid,” Chen told NBC News, adding that she hopes their family can stay together in the U.S.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated incorrectly that Cuomo and Meng attended the rally.