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Lie v. Ashcroft

February 7, 2005


On Petition for Review of Orders of the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board Nos. A78 696 420, A 78 696 421, A 78 696 422)

Before: Nygaard, Rosenn, and Becker, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Becker, Circuit Judge


Argued: December 13, 2004


Imelda Laurencia Lie, her husband, Soyono Liem, and her minor son, Andre Yulius Suyono, petition for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying their application for asylum and withholding of removal.*fn1 This case tracks a now familiar fact pattern: Lie is an Indonesian citizen who alleges that she and her husband were persecuted because they are ethnically Chinese and Christian. More specifically, Lie alleges, as is common in these cases, that she and her husband were robbed on separate occasions by unknown individuals who targeted them because of their ethnicity and their religion.

However, substantial evidence supports the BIA's conclusion that these robberies were not motivated by religion or ethnicity, and that, at all events, such robberies were not sufficiently severe so as to rise to the level of persecution. Moreover, we agree with the BIA's conclusion that Lie has not established a well-founded fear of persecution if she were to return to Indonesia. Therefore, we will deny the petition for review.


Lie became a naturalized Indonesian citizen around the time she married her husband in 1990. Lie and her husband lived separately for work reasons in towns about four hours apart. As noted above, both Lie and her husband are ethnically Chinese and are Christians. In the late 1990s, Indonesia's Chinese Christian population became the target of widespread attacks perpetrated by Muslim Indonesians. The 1999 United States State Department country report for Indonesia noted that "[i]nterreligious violence and violence against ethnic minorities continued. Attacks against houses of worship continued, and the lack of an effective government response to punish perpetrators and prevent further attacks led to allegations of official complicity in some incidents." U.S. Dep't of State, 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Indonesia, Feb. 25, 2000 ("1999 Country Report"). In May 1998, there were "serious and widespread attacks" on Chinese-owned businesses and homes by Muslim Indonesians, which led to the deaths of over one thousand people. Id. Thus, 1998 represented a period of significant violence and rioting against individuals of Chinese origin throughout Indonesia.

Lie alleges that at the start of this tumultuous period, in 1997, several native, Muslim Indonesians entered her husband's store, threatened him with a knife, called him a "Chinese pig," and then robbed him. Traumatized as a result of the robbery, her husband left for the United States in December 1997.

Lie further claims that in July 1998, two people knocked on the door of her home, called her a "Chinese pig," and demanded entry. They knocked down the door brandishing a knife, threatened to burn down her house, and demanded that she give them money.

The intruders took some of Lie's money and jewelry and struck her in the left forearm with the knife when she tried to defend herself. When they left, Lie called the police, but claims that no one at the police station answered the phone. Lie received several stitches for the knife wound. However, for the next twenty-one months, Lie and her son continued to live in the same house without incident.

Lie and her son did not leave Indonesia until March 2000, when they came to the United States as non-immigrant visitors. On August 14, 2000, Lie filed an asylum application with her husband and son as derivative applicants. On September 26, 2000, the INS commenced removal proceedings against Lie, her husband, and her son. The Immigration Judge (IJ) initially indicated he would grant asylum subject to the admission of additional evidence from both parties, including evidence confirming that Lie is a Catholic. Because Lie did not provide the information in time, the IJ denied her asylum application. Lie filed a timely motion to reopen the case and produced evidence that she is a Catholic and attends mass every Sunday. The IJ then reopened the case and granted the motion for asylum.

The IJ made credibility findings in Lie's favor, including that the IJ had "no reason to dispute the veracity of [the] claim that [Lie] and her husband are ethnically Chinese" and that Lie was in fact Catholic. The main issue addressed by the IJ was the motivation of the individuals who robbed Lie's husband and Lie. While finding that the attackers had some interest in simple robbery, the IJ concluded that, "taking into account the context in which the respondent's claim arises, it is reasonable to conclude that those who robbed the respondent and her husband were motivated at least in part by a desire to punish them because of their ethnicity." In addition to Lie's testimony about the incident, the IJ relied on evidence of the 1998 anti-Chinese riots and other violence directed against ethnic Chinese during this period documented in the ...

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