Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The itinerary was set by our Bosnian staffer so we went to a pizza place run by Bosnians. I had Ćevapčići / ćevapi, basically ground beef formed into little sausage shapes (but it's not sausage), served in a wonderfully chewy leavened flatbread, with a side of kajmak (sour cream) and ajvar (pureed spread of red bell peppers, eggplant, garlic, and chili pepper). The 'j' is pronounced like 'y' as in 'sky.' Anyway, it was good and actually better than what I had in Serbia.
We finished the field trip by stopping at the BAPS Hindu temple. It opened this past weekend and will be open to the public starting September 1. Even though it wasn't officially open, they welcomed us to walk the grounds. Here's the article from the newspaper.
All in all it was a really good field trip.
'A piece of India' dedicated in Lilburn
Largest mandir of its kind in the United States opens after volunteers spend more than 1.3 million man hours in construction.
By D. AILEEN DODDThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/27/07
It towers from a hilltop in monumental grandeur, a hand-carved house for God built using the ancient traditions of India and planted on red Georgia clay.
Hindus came from half-way around the world Sunday for the inauguration of the $19 million mandir in Lilburn.
Colored rice decorates the entrance to the $19 million BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn. The world leader of the BAPS organization flew in especially to consecrate the mandir, as people from around the world attended.
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir heaved from marble, limestone and sandstone by the careful hands of Indian artisans, is the largest mandir of its kind in the United States. It is the fourth traditional BAPS community temple in North America. And a source of pride for Hindus nationwide.
The world leader of the BAPS organization, His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, flew in especially to consecrate the mandir. The inauguration comes during the centennial anniversary of the BAPS religious heritage.
Sunday's ceremonies celebrated the link between Indian and American cultures.
Balloons in the colors of the American and Indian flags floated overhead. The national anthems of both countries were sung.
"This mandir is not just for the Swaminarayan faithful, it is for everyone," said Pramukh Swami Mahara to his faithful Sunday. "God resides in this mandir. ... We hope the volunteers who worked on it serve as an inspiration to others."
Volunteers spent more than 1.3 million man hours building the mandir.
Thousands of devotees gathered in the shadow of the temple after the opening ceremonies, eagerly awaiting to step barefoot inside of it.
For some of them, seeing the ornate temple beneath the canopy of trees was like a vision from India. The strip malls, the aging subdivisions, the stream of traffic traveling Lawrenceville Highway in Lilburn disappeared for the moment.
There was only the chanting of the sadhus, the monks of the temple. The sound of Gujarati rolling off tongues. The gazes of the ancient forefathers of the Hindu religion staring down from their stone perches, from Vyas Muni and Vishnu, to the sacred images of Swaminarayan and his successors.
"You do not have to go that far away from home to feel like you're in India," said Hetal Patel of Duluth. "I can come here to pray and have peace."
People traveled from London, India, Africa and across the nation to celebrate the opening of the mandir in a place many of the devotees had never heard of before — Lilburn. Families were reunited for the special occasion.
Hindus wore their Sunday best just to stand in line in the sweltering heat. The women wore long silk saris dripping with sequins and beads, the men wore hand-embroided cotton pants with shirts to the knee as the sun beamed down relentlessly.
"I'm so excited," said Sheetal Desai of Buford. "I can't believe it's finally opening."
Sanjay Patel of Jacksonville, Fla., paid $3,000 so his in-laws could fly in from India. The family drove several hours Sunday to see the mandir. His wife, Jaya, painted her hand with decorative henna.
"There is no temple like this in Jacksonville," Patel said. "It is important for us to be here."
The Hindu devotees were joined by three metro-Atlanta dignitaries who were welcomed with fresh garlands of carnations. U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson delivered a proclamation from the House of Representatives. Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister and Lilburn Mayor Jack Bolton also were among the crowd.
"This certainly has put Lilburn on the map," Bolton said. "It is a grand addition to our city."
It took 17 months to build the mandir and nearly 35,000 pieces of stone. It is made of Italian carrara marble, Turkish limra limestone and Indian pink sandstone.
Artisans have been carving stone since 2005 for the temple. Their work is so detailed that you can see the whimsical expressions on the faces of the sages and devotees on the ceilings and columns of the mandir. One, a scholar, is wearing glasses.
The mandir will be a place children and families can return to their roots and celebrate their culture. It will be used for meditation. A Family Activity Center nearby will teach native languages, instrument lessons and provide other services.
Metro Atlanta is home to about 500 BAPS followers. There are 1 million worldwide out of about 1 billion Hindus. The BAPS strain of Hinduism, one of many offshoots of the religion, has roots in 19th century Gujarat. It was founded in 1907 by Shastriji Maharaj. Pramukh Swami Maharaj is regarded as the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, the central figure of the Swaminarayan faith who lived in the 1700s and 1800s.
Members practice non-violence, strive to maintain high personal ethics and a commitment to community service. They are strict vegetarians who believe in reincarnation and worship Bhagwan Swaminarayan. BAPS also is a civic organization dedicated to community service worldwide and the preservation of Indian heritage.
Looking at the sages on the mandir, Deepa Patel, a Lawrenceville student studying law in St. Paul, Minn., was reminded of stories from her childhood.
"It like our little corner of the world here," she said. "It feels like a piece of India placed in Lilburn."
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
First, there was a contract bid due on Thursday at 1pm. So there were some late nights working on that. The technical proposal had to be submitted in a separate envelope from the financial proposal. And there had to be 5 hard copies and 3 CDs made of one proposal and 2 hard copies and 2 CDs of the other. I'm just glad it's done.
Then Thursday as well, the archivists came to collect our documents at work. So excited. My organization donated our papers to Georgia State University's Library Archives, specifically the Women's Collection. Social movements are made by individual people and organizations and so often the notes, newsletters, meeting minutes are just thrown away and lost to history.
Lost, like the press pass I had that both Bill Clinton and Al Gore signed when they were campaigning. But I've moved so often since then, who knows where it is?
So to prevent all our hard work to disappear in time, our organization donated our papers and the archivists will clean and organize them. Eventually I will be able to go to the library, and figure our the organization's history. But most exciting is that because these documents are in the library archives, academics across the US and into the future, will be able to access our documents!
There will be a record for all time of what a group of refugee and immigrant women did to make the world a better place. Like Margaret Mead said: Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Saturday Husband and I went to Folk Fest organized by Slotin Folk Art. We didn't buy anything, but were very tempted by several pieces.
We saw Robert Griffis, an artist whose paintings I have seen at art festivals for years and finally bought a small piece from him at the Decatur Arts Festival this summer. One of these years I'll get one of his big pieces.
We say Bart Webb, who made this fish that we bought from him at the Decatur Arts Festival too.
Okay, I had a nice long post about Folk Fest, and somehow only my first sentences made it to the post. Anyway, the exhibitors are listed on the Folk Fest website.
Folk Fest was held at the North Atlanta Trade Center, in Gwinnett County, the most diverse county in Georgia. So for dinner, we hopped onto Buford Highway to go to a Korean restaurant. I once saw a Korean restaurant called Baden Baden, which is the name of a city in Germany, so I wanted to see what that was all about.
But we couldn't find it, so we ended up stopping in one of the zillions of multicultural shopping centers on Buford Hwy that had a Korean restaurant. Can't remember what it was called, but I could probably find it again.
What's cool about Buford Hwy is that the shopping centers have signs in Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Amharic, and other languages. As we drove around, I looked for Korean, but it could have referred to nail salons, doctors offices, or restaurants, for all I know.
At the Korean restaurant, ______ Garden, all the signs were in Korean, our waitress didn't seem to speak English, and the other diners were Korean, Chinese, and white.
It was our first time going to a Korean restaurant. Usually I have Korean only when I go to visit Sister and Husband never goes to DC with me. I've been there at least a dozen times since Sister's lived in DC, but Husband never wants to go, even though he wants to go see the new Udvar-Hazee aeronautical exhibit.
So the dinner started with about 15 small bowls of different kinds of kimchee. The spicy pickled daikon radish and the spicy pickled eggplant were the best. I did not like the spicy pickled grape leaves. Too sour. Other dishes were unidentifiable, but still good.
Husband got the spicy pork, which came with spicy pickled napa cabbage, and I got bulgogi. Nummy nummy. It was a huge amount of food so we have leftovers for the rest of the weekend.
We ended our cultural day by watching Borat. I thought it was pretty good, and cringe inducing. Knowing that he's being sued by some of the people in it, I kept wondering how they managed to film it. Plus, having seen clips from the film at award shows, talk shows, etc, it seemed that I've already seen the movie before.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I drive a Honda Accord and here's what they had to say:
The car: A Honda Accord or other sensible sedan
What the car says about its owner: Someone who drives this practical vehicle is most likely educated and intelligent, Dr. Orbuch says. “This driver probably likes discussing politics and is very well-read and mature,” she explains. “People who drive these kinds of cars don’t take big risks in life, but hey, that mentality has served them well up to now!” What you may find pleasantly surprising is that the driver probably has a lot of savings socked away. “This kind of person has invested his or her money well and may very well be enjoying a cushy lifestyle, but is just smart enough to know that a car is a horrible investment,” she explains. Ultimately, he or she cares about value, not flash.
What the car says about its owner’s love style: Its owner will most enjoy someone who likes to converse about life, Dr. Orbuch suggests. “He or she thinks that support, friendship, and honesty are essential to a good healthy relationship,” she says. Additionally, he or she probably doesn’t mind spending a lot of money on a mate—“especially when it comes to travel, fabulous hotels, and great restaurants,” she says. The thinking is: “I save when I can to splurge when I want.”
That's rather accurate.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
CONTENT: 100% Slub Cotton
WEIGHT: 50 grams
LENGTH: 108 yard
GAUGE: Chunky: 3.5 stitches per inch
NEEDLE SIZE: US size 7 - 9
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
So I called the leasing office to say hey! Toilet's overflowing! Leasing manager said that he was sending the maintenance man and to turn off the water.
So I grabbed some paper towels, walked through the water, cursing, and leaned down to turn off the water.
We've complained about the toilet before and just this week the manager and the maintenance guy came by to look at it.
I'm just glad Complaining Employee wasn't here today (she doesn't work Wednesdays). Yesterday at staff meeting she asked about getting a dishwasher or disposable plates, because those are more hygenic than washing by hand. What, she doesn't know how to hand wash? Does she think there's some cleaning fairy that comes around to clean up after her?
She'll also complain that there are dead bugs in the hallway, instead of picking it up and throwing it away herself. When she pointed it out, I said "Good. That means the pesticides are working." Hello, again, there is no cleaning fairy!
I hired her knowing that she'd be difficult to manage, but come on!
She also has a painful past, with family members killed by militia, and a personal history of protesting her previous country's government, which is why she's a refugee.
Personally, she bugs the hell out of me. However I keep her on staff because she is representative of our clients. The refugee experience is traumatic and the mental health aftershocks continue even after they are physically safe in the US.
I talk the talk about needing to support refugee women. Keeping her on staff is how I'm walking the walk.
And no one ever said it would be easy.
But is it too much to ask for toilets, in a big, modern city in the US, to freaking work!?!?!
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
En-Ah! This is Ma-ma, la. I'm calling from work and I know you're at work. This month is Ghost Month and it's very dangerous for you and Guh-Guh-ah (Brother One's family nickname). Ghost Month is August 13 to Sept ___ (forgot the date). You two were born in the year of the dog and dragon and have to be more careful.
You have to tie a red thread around your waist -- all month! You have yarn -- tell (Brother One) to go to your house and both of you tie red thread around your waist. This is good for you. You will achieve what you've been working towards all year, and (Brother One) will get a job. Okay, don't forget, you need to wear it all month!
Monday, August 13, 2007
Now all that remains is sewing them up and adding a border. And waiting for the baby. However, the baby girl (not mine) isn't born yet, so the blanket is nameless. And I just found out someone else had a baby boy, so of course I'm thinking, another baby blanket to make!
I've cast on for Honorine, using KnitPicks CotLin in Moroccan Red. When I got the box last week, the red made me swoon. Okay, not literally, but I was very happy with it. I swatched with size 6 US and size 5 US and size 6 gave me gauge (22 sts = 4 inches). However, after washing and blocking, the yarn expanded and the size 6 US swatch now turns out to be 20.5 sts to 4 inches.
What to do? Should I go with the pre-washed gauge and cast on the number of stitches for my bust size, or go with the after washing gauge and cast on the number for the smaller bust size and rely on washing to make it grow to my size?
I've also decided to knit it in the round and omit the lace insert for modesty. Actually, I don't want to have to wear a camisole underneath. It's just too warm in Atlanta most of the time to need it. This involved more math, as the lace insert uses a different yarn, with a different gauge which I had to convert to my washed CotLin gauge. In the end, I chose to go with the smallest size and cast on 180 stitches. Here's hoping this works!
Crocheting the orange and ivory really got me into the crochet groove. I've been eyeing Babette by Kathy Merrick from Interweave Crochet 2006 and there are lots of great pics on Flickr. I also have Glorious Patchwork by Kaffe Fassett (love his stuff!). The quilt on the cover was the inspiration for Babette.
But most of my yarn is not machine washable and there's no way I'm going to hand wash an afghan. Really now, people.
However, in flipping through Glorious Patchwork, I found a few quilts that I could convert into knitting or crocheting. After the orange and ivory blanket is done, I'll do some swatching and we'll see what comes of it.
However, it'll have to go the end of the line behind Husband's afghan, Honorine, Brother-in-law's vest -- for winter holiday or his January birthday, the Sandy cardigan from Big Girl Knits for Ma -- needs to be done by Chinese New Year next year, and fixing Sister's Bi-colored Cables sweater. I probably just need to reknit the sleeves. And the collar.
But for now, I will just enjoy going round and round on Honorine, my portable, mindless knitting.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
The yarns are one skein of KnitPicks Bare Superwash worsted wool and one skein of varigated orange superwash sock yarn from Fearless Fibers. The orange is held double, the ivory single, using a size H crochet hook. The pattern is modified from 200 Crochet Blocks by Jan Eaton.
Published: August 9, 2007
In a further sign of the United States’ growing diversity, nonwhites now make up a majority in almost one-third of the most-populous counties in the country and in nearly one in 10 of all 3,100 counties, according to an analysis of census results to be released today.
The shift reflects the growing dispersal of immigrants and the suburbanization of blacks and Hispanics pursuing jobs generated by whites moving to the fringes of metropolitan areas.
From July 1, 2005, to July 1, 2006, metropolitan Chicago edged out Honolulu in Asian population, and Washington inched ahead of El Paso in the number of Hispanic residents. In black population, Houston overtook Los Angeles.
“The new wave of immigration, along with its continued dispersal to the suburbs and Sun Belt, is transforming the places which are now being classified as multiethnic and majority minority,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.
“The new melting pots are not large international gateways,” Professor Frey said, adding, “Rather, many are fast-growing suburbs themselves.”
In 36 counties with more than 500,000 residents each, non-Hispanic whites are now a minority, up from 29 counties of that size in 2000.
From 2005 to 2006 alone, eight other mostly less-populous counties shifted to a majority of minorities, the Census Bureau said. They were Denver, Colo.; East Baton Rouge Parish, La.; Winkler, Waller and Wharton in Texas; Blaine, Mont.; Colfax, N.M.; and Manassas Park, Va., an independent city that is considered the equivalent of a county.
In a new study for the Population Reference Bureau, Mark Mather and Kelvin Pollard found that Hispanic people were increasingly attracted to job opportunities and lower costs outside major metropolitan areas.
“Between 2000 and 2006, the total population in small towns and rural areas increased by 3 percent, but the Hispanic population in these counties grew from 2.6 million to 3.2 million, a 22 percent increase,” the authors of the study wrote.
So far this decade, they added, “there are also new areas of growth, including exurban counties in the Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., metropolitan areas, plus parts of Texas, central Florida, and a few other states.”
Since 2000, the Hispanic population more than doubled in metropolitan Winchester, Va.; Scranton, Pa.; Cape Coral, Fla.; and Hagerstown, Md.. The largest numerical increases were in metropolitan Los Angeles (576,630); Riverside, Calif., (545,152); Dallas (472,222); Houston (470,157); and New York (418,720).
Black populations declined in metropolitan New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and New York. The biggest numerical gains were in Atlanta (370,470), Houston (142,364), Dallas (130,367), Miami (126,819) and Washington (114,915). The growth in Atlanta, Houston and Dallas was attributed in part to survivors of Hurricane Katrina moving to those cities.
The highest growth rates among Asian populations were in metropolitan Napa, Calif., and Ocala, Naples, Cape Coral and Port St. Lucie, Fla. The greatest numerical increases were in New York (309,773), Los Angeles (216,987), Washington (105,390), San Francisco (103,073) and Chicago (93,237).
Metropolitan Phoenix; Atlanta; Dallas; Houston; Las Vegas; Austin, Tex.; Charlotte; Portland, Ore.; and Raleigh, N.C., each recorded gains in non-Hispanic whites of more than 100,000 since 2000. The largest losses were registered by metropolitan New York (248,422), Los Angeles (193,109), San Francisco (127,151) and New Orleans (111,162).
Harris County, Tex., home to Houston, gained 121,400 minority residents from 2005 to 2006, the most of any county. Sixty-three percent of its residents were members of minorities.
Maricopa County, Ariz., home to Phoenix, recorded the biggest numerical increase in Hispanic residents (71,000) and also the biggest increase in non-Hispanic whites (35,500).
Harris County and East Baton Rouge Parish registered the biggest increases in black residents, 52,000 and 19,000, respectively.
My father is not a big talker in person and even less so on the phone. Everytime, if he answers the phone, he will hand off the phone to my mom within 5 minutes.
Last night, at about 9:45, I called home. My dad answered. I told him happy father's day, what did you do yesterday to celebrate? Sorry we (the kids) didn't call yesterday. He said that they didn't do much, he and my mom just got some cupcakes (aww how cute) since none of us kids were there in person, so it's not such a big deal.
I asked if they were going to come visit at Thanksgiving, as mentioned earlier this year. He said, let me find your ma and ask her. He left me hanging on the phone and I could hear him calling for Ma, then she came on the line.
Ma and I chatted and they will just come at Chinese New Year next year when they have 3 weeks off, instead of coming in November when they can't get away for as long. Now that Brother Two is in NYC, Sister in DC, me in Atl, and Brother One's location TBD, they need more time to travel around to see all their kids.
Also, one reason they thought about coming at Thanksgiving is that Ba will turn 65 right around then and he wants to fill out the paper work regarding Social Security (ah, at least that's still there for them, unlike anyone coming after the baby boomers). However, many government workers will be on vacation around then too, I'm sure, and that would be a less efficient time to go get government paperwork done.
After some more chit chat, I asked Ma to put Ba back on the phone, since it is a Father's Day call. However, true to form, he ended the call soon after. I told him, that this was just the first call of the day, he's got three more coming.
Need to make sure he doesn't use up all his words right away :P
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Today, August 8, is Father's Day in Taiwan, where our parents live. The word for "8" and for "dad" are homophones. That is, they sound the same: ba.
So today is August 8, which is 8/8, which is ba/ba, which is ba ba, which is father.
However, while it is 8/8 in the US right now, it is 8/9 in Taiwan because Taiwan is 12 hours ahead. If I called right now, it'd be 5:30am the day after Father's Day. Damn!
I just realized all this half an hour ago as I was taking a phone message, and wrote in today's date, 8/8. Light bulb went off and guilt kicked in.
Called Sister right away to ask if she called. She didn't. Crap! Ironic, because Sister's the only one who writes home regularly (she's the only one I know who still writes letters on stationary) and had just mailed off a letter two days ago. Plus, she's Daddy's Little Girl.
Called Brother One. He didn't call home either. On the other hand, he did send a Father's Day card in June, so someone remembered at some point this year. It helped that he works at a Hallmark store, surrounded by holiday reminders. I think one of us may have called home in June too. But I don't remember.
Sister called Brother Two, who said he didn't call either. He had an excuse. He had just moved to NYC this past weekend and started a new job.
So tonight, one day late, my father will get calls from all four of his kids, all of whom have forgetten Father's Day.
Shame on all of us.
Monday, August 6, 2007
For the last 7 years, since we moved to our house, I had been a gardener, mainly into roses, hostas, irises, daylilies, all named varieties ordered from specialty growers. All the plants had their own labels that I made from wooden plaques. In the vegetable garden, we had tomatoes, okra, and peppers. I would tour the garden after work everyday, inspecting everything. Each time I planted or moved something, I would make a dated map showing the changes. I would hand dig new beds and add amendments to the hard, dense, Georgia red clay.
However, I have lost my interest. I admit I'm lazy and don't want to get up at 9am to water. Plus the mosquitoes are ferocious and the heat and humdity (despite the lack of rain, it's still humid) is unbearable in July and August and so slowly, my garden is dying, and I'm letting it.
The only things now that get care are the 4 tomato plants and potted plants and only because Husband does the watering. I mow the lawn, and that's all the "gardening" we do.
We had the 9 pine trees removed from our front lawn, leaving only the 2 dogwood trees. Prior to the tree removal, I dug up a lot of perennials and moved them to the vegetable garden and may the fittest survive. The first to die were the lilac and peony, neither of which do particularly well in hot weather anyway.
The front lawn is patchy. There are at least nine bare spots where the trees used to be, and then there's a quarter of the lawn that's just dirt. A few years ago, we used a lawn service to kill the weeds. Well, the weeds were what would grow and now that they're gone and the drought is here, the grass won't grow into that area and it's just eroding away. When I do mow the sparse tufts of grass within that area, huge dust clouds blow up.
We plan to have the front lawn torn up and sodded in the fall, when the rains return. I also had a landscape designer come out and give us a garden plan for the front yard. He recommended that we cut back the overgrown azaleas and holly bushes in the front yard to 6 inches, which we did. I'd like to dig up and remove the hollies entirely, but will wait for cooler weather to do so. I don't need to suffer heat stroke and sharp holly punctures.
Perhaps when the weather is better, my gardening interest will come back. But for now, I'm no longer calling myself a gardener.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
The conference will be in Atlanta, which will still be very warm, so the yarn has to be cotton or something similarly cool. Plus gauge is 22 sts = 4 inches, so that's DK weight.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Stephanie Pearl McPhee will be coming September 19 to read from her latest book, Stephanie Pearl McPhee Casts Off!
It's being organized by my favorite yarn shop, Knitch. They began taking reservations this morning at Knitchknitting.com and I got myself registered ASAP.
There are clips of her talks on You Tube (everything's on You Tube), but it'll be really nice to see her in person, and to knit in public en masse and surprise the Muggles.
Speaking of Muggles, I work with Muggles, in the Harry Potter sense. One co-worker doesn't like fantasy because she anything that isn't realistic and "normal" freaks her out.
What I like about HP is that wizarding is a subculture that most mainstream don't understand. That resonates with me because knitting is a misunderstood subculture. And I work with refugees and the majority of Americans have no idea who refugees are (those who flee persecution and can't go back to their home country). Given the general state of zenophobia going on, refugees get lumped in with all foreigners who should all be deported. There was an article in the Atlanta paper that illustrates this zenophobia. It's reprinted below.
Anyway, the Yarn Harlot is coming, that's definitely a good thing to look forward to.
Asylum a tough sell in Atlanta
Immigration courts here OK lowest percentage of cases of the top 17 courts in U.S.
By Anna VarelaThe Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 07/29/07
As an immigration attorney, Charles Kuck has found himself in an awkward spot with potential clients from Colombia. If they want to apply for asylum to avoid getting deported to their home country, he advises them to move out of Georgia before filing a claim.
"That's prudence," said Kuck, who knows that Colombians dramatically improve their odds of winning an asylum case by having it heard almost anywhere but Atlanta. "They approve fewer cases percentage-wise than any immigration court in the United States," said Kuck, an Atlanta attorney who is president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
A recent study titled "Refugee Roulette" found that 12 percent of all asylum claims heard by Atlanta's immigration courts are approved, the lowest percentage among 17 courts that hear large numbers of cases. The national average among "high-volume" immigration courts was a 40 percent approval rate.
People from Colombia and China are almost certain to be denied, according to the study released this spring by three law professors and scheduled for publication in the Stanford Law Review in November.
Cases filed by Colombians had a 19 percent approval rate in Atlanta's courts, compared to 36 percent nationwide and 63 percent in Orlando. Asylum applicants from China won 7 percent of their claims in Atlanta. That's well below the 47 percent approval rate nationwide and the 76 percent approval rate in Orlando's immigration courts.
Under U.S. law, asylum can be granted to immigrants who are likely to face persecution if they return to their home countries. Typically, asylum seekers must prove they could face imprisonment, torture or death because of their political views, race, religion or membership in an ethnic group.
Tewodros "Teddy" Dagne is one of the lucky ones who won his asylum case. The native of Ethiopia fled his home country in 1999 because his work for a human rights group put his life at risk. Dagne, 31, said one of his colleagues was shot dead by government soldiers and Dagne started getting phone calls telling him to stop his investigations of government torture and killing of dissidents.
"When this kind of threat comes from the top governing body, there's no way to protect yourself," said Dagne, now the editor of Dinq Ethiopian Magazine in Atlanta. "They can do anything they want."
H. Glenn Fogle Jr., an Atlanta immigration attorney, said he has represented clients in asylum cases in about 20 immigration courts in the United States. Outside Atlanta, he said he has lost about 3 out of 100 cases. Here, he said he loses 90-95 percent of the time.
Part of the problem, he says, is that most of Atlanta's immigration judges used to work for the government, making them more likely to side with the government lawyers who go into court trying to block asylum petitions. Official biographies of Atlanta's four immigration judges show that three of them used to work as lawyers for the Department of Homeland Security, or the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"You have basically the equivalent of prosecutors being the judges now," Fogle said. "They don't believe anybody, they don't want to believe anybody."
The immigration courts are part of the Department of Justice. The department does not allow immigration judges to be interviewed.
One of Atlanta's judges, William A. Cassidy, is considered one of the toughest in the nation when it comes to denying asylum petitions. Over a five-year period, Cassidy denied slightly more than 93 percent of the 926 cases that he decided, according to a different study that was conducted by Syracuse University. During that period —- 2000-2005 —- the denial rate nationwide was close to 62 percent, according to the 2006 study.
That put Cassidy in the top 10 in denying asylum requests, according to the study's analysis of 224 immigration judges who decided at least 100 cases.
Phil Kent, spokesman for Americans for Immigration Control, said he's pleased that Atlanta's immigration court is tough on asylum-seekers. Kent said it's likely that local judges are following the letter of the law more closely than in some other jurisdictions.
"Just like with our borders, workplace verification and everything else on this issue [immigration], we do need to tighten up on asylum," said Kent, a former editorial page editor of the Augusta Chronicle.
Kuck, the immigration attorney, called Cassidy "a good, fair judge" who probably sees asylum as a form of protection that should only be granted in extraordinary cases.
But Kuck said there is a problem when similar cases can be treated so differently across the country. "It says our system is broken."