Client Smuggled on the Golden Venture Ship Granted Green Card After 17 Years

On June 6, 1993, the Golden Venture, a cargo ship carrying 282 immigrants being smuggled from China, crashed at Rockaway, New York, near New York City. The passengers paid about $5,000 each to their smugglers and promised to work off an additional $30,000 when they reached the U.S. They were given one ration of rice and peanuts a day and were kept in dirty storage containers. As the ship crashed, many of the immigrants fell into the ocean. They had been at sea for 112 days with little food or water, and lots of abuse from vicious snakeheads. The water was cold, and many of the immigrants were very weak due to the length of their trip and their mistreatment and lack of food. Ten of them were unable to survive in the cold and rough water, and drowned that day. Those who survived were arrested by immigration officials and sent to immigration jails. Most of them applied for political asylum, but many lost their cases and spent many years in jail awaiting their deportation. About 140 were deported to China and about 50 more were sent to other countries that accepted them. Some won their asylum cases in immigration court, and others lost their cases, but were eventually released from jail by order of President Clinton in 1997. A client of ours who was smuggled on the Golden Venture came to us about 4 months ago, recommended to him by a friend who had been smuggled to the United States on a different ship and who had already received his green card. This new client from the Golden Venture explained that he had been released from jail and had been reporting his address to immigration as required by law for many years. He had received a letter ordering him to go to the Deportation Office at the Immigration Service’s headquarters at 16th and Callowhill Street in Philadelphia and was afraid that he would be arrested. He was married to a U.S. citizen and they had children together, but a previous attempt to reopen his court case had been denied. Our client’s previous lawyer had not understood the current law regarding green card applications for immigrants with deportation orders. A new Board of Immigration Appeals that we reported on late last year allows certain immigrants with final orders of deportation to apply for a green card directly to the immigration service without reopening their court cases. There are too many factors to discuss in this article, but this client qualified. We sent him to his deportation office appointment with a legal memorandum explaining that he was eligible to apply for a green card according to an appeals court decision and provided a copy of the decision for the officer to read. Our client was relieved when the officer let him go home and he returned to our office to begin working on his green card application. We filed his green card application soon after the appointment and his interview was scheduled only two and a half months later. Our client received his green card after the interview and has now become one of the only, or possibly the only person to survive the Golden Venture and get a green card even after a final order of deportation. Shortly after he received his green card, we received a call from his Congressman’s office which informed me that they were unaware of any other immigrants from the Golden Venture receiving green cards after losing their appeal. We explained how the law applies to this particular situation, and the Congressman’s assistant thanked me and said that she was very surprised. Unfortunately, for the many immigrants who came on the Golden Venture who were already deported, and for the 10 that drowned, it is too late. Hopefully, there are other survivors who are still in the U.S. who will be able to get their green cards as our client did.

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