An astute reader's memory was triggered by "Mock Trial," the article I wrote last week about Miami's immigration judges. Judge Bruce Solow, who said of one asylum seeker's case that it "was so vague and general you could vomit," was the subject of a Daily Business Review article published on March 27. (Sorry I can't link to the article itself — the DBR demands a flagrantly overpriced sum to download a story more than six weeks old. I had to go into New Times' dusty stacks to find it.)
The article was about the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in the case of asylum seeker Shizhuang Zheng, who claimed he was persecuted by the Chinese government for practicing Falun Gong. In 1999, the Chinese government outlawed the spiritual movement and its meditation exercises. Thousands of those who practiced it were incarcerated and "deprogrammed," according to the U.S. State Department. The Federal Court remanded Zheng's asylum case back to a lower court because Solow's denial "was based on his own knowledge of Falun Gong, and was not supported by the record."
The Circuit Court's opinion stated that, "The Immigration Judge [found] Zheng's responses to questions regarding the nature of Falun Gong insufficient to show that 'he kn[ew] anything', declaring Zheng's responses to be 'as instructive as opening a fortune cookie' and 'quite off-the-wall.'"
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Judge Solow opined that "Falun Gong... is an advancement in a step process which incorporates various Taoism, Buddhism, and eastern metaphysical...and other recognized religions of betterment, of moving yourself along to each step to a higher plane so that you become, not just well, 'Yeah, I'm a better person.' I read that as, again, out of a fortune cookie."
Even worse, one of the reasons Judge Solow questioned Zheng's credibility was because he was "sniffling like crazy" during the hearing, even though Zheng had, in Solow's words, practiced Falun Gong because it "fixed him up."
According to the Eleventh Circuit opinion, Solow "commented on Zheng's sniffling twice during the hearing. The second time, he appeared almost hostile about it: 'Still sniffling, huh?... Here, I'll give you a tissue. Yeah. Go ahead, have a nice tissue on the Court. Go ahead.'"