Baby’s Persecution May Help Parents Get Asylum

     (CN) – A couple whose baby died in Indonesia because doctors there would not help a Christian family can seek U.S. asylum based on this incident, the 9th Circuit ruled.
     The federal appeals court noted Thursday that this case presents the question: “Can a parent applying for asylum or withholding of removal show that she has been persecuted based on suffering or harm inflicted on her child?”
     Berawati Notoredjo is a citizen of Indonesia, a majority Muslim country. She is a Christian and of Chinese descent, a minority group that has long faced violence and discrimination in Indonesia.
     In December 1996, Notoredjo and her husband, Johan Sumolang, also a Christian, brought their seriously ill baby daughter Monicha to a public hospital. On arrival, a nurse said, “Oh, you are Christians,” and told them the doctor was busy.
     Notoredjo said a Muslim doctor then for a bribe, and refused treat the baby as a “priority” when she and her husband could not pay.
     When Sumolang confronted the doctor, he allegedly replied: “You Chinese don’t know your place. You will have to wait until I’m free.” Notoredjo said the doctor also threatened to call the police on them.
     By the time the doctor saw the baby, it was too late to save her. Notoredjo said they never even learned cause of death.
     The couple visited the United States as tourists in 1997, but overstayed their visas as widespread anti-Chinese violence broke out in Indonesia the following year, leaving more than 1,000 people dead.
     In 2002, they both applied for asylum and protection under the Convention Against Torture. The immigration judge denied their applications, however, and refused to consider evidence surrounding the death of the couple’s daughter.
     A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit found Thursday that the immigration judge “erred as a legal matter in refusing to consider the evidence concerning Monicha’s death.”
     The death of the couple’s infant did not just amount to persecution of the baby, but persecution of the parents as well, the court ruled.
     “Our precedent, as well as precedent from other circuits, supports Ms. Notoredjo’s reliance on the harm inflicted on her infant daughter as evidence of past persecution,” Judge Paul Watford wrote for the panel. “Harm to a child can amount to past persecution of the parent when that harm is, at least in part, directed against the parent ‘on account of’ or ‘because of’ the parent’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” (Emphasis in original.)
     Notoredjo’s “account of what transpired at the hospital makes clear that the doctors and nurses deliberately ignored Monicha’s medical needs because her parents were Christian and her mother was Chinese,” Watkins added. “The hospital staff’s delay in administering medical care to Monicha was, at least in part, directed against Ms. Notoredjo and her husband because of her race and their religion. Indeed, the anti-Christian motivation for the hospital staff’s actions can only be understood as directed against Monicha’s parents, since a three-month-old infant lacks the capacity to adopt a religious faith of her own. It is fair to say that although the hospital staff’s actions inflicted harm most immediately on Monicha, those actions were ‘designed to send a message’ to Monicha’s parents, and were calculated to inflict suffering on them through their child,” the judge concluded. (Emphasis in original.)

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