To Atlanta, finally.
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."