The Chinese detainees being held in Ullin, Ill., are not the only ones who have been duped ["For 88 Refugees, Limbo Is a Place Called Illinois," news story, Aug. 16]. So have we at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).
LIRS was called by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to coordinate the pro bono legal services for 34 Chinese asylum seekers detained at Ullin. Part of our decision to accept the leadership role in this unusual collaborative outreach on the part of the INS was based on assurances by the INS that parole would be a real option. We at the service felt the INS was interested in changing the way it does business.
We and our colleague agencies, members of the Detention Watch Network, donated hundreds of hours of staff time to provide pro bono legal services at a moment's notice at a remote location on behalf of the Chinese asylum seekers. Our mission through this cooperative endeavor was to ensure a fair process, obtain parole and free at least some of these frightened people from detention.
The asylum seekers were found by the INS to have credible fear; the asylum seekers had bona fide reasons for their flight from China, such as forced abortion and sterilization. We filed their parole requests in a timely fashion and secured sponsors and shelters for each of them. We obtained their promissory letters of intent to report monthly to the INS and to attend all hearings. We assured the INS that we would arrange pro bono legal counsel for each of them. The INS has denied requests for parole for each of them.
RALSTON DEFFENBAUGH Jr.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service