By: Duke Truong
J.D. Candidate, 2017
Valparaiso University School of Law
Lishou Wang, a native and citizen of China, used to farm in a village in the eastern province of Shandong. In 1988, he and his wife bore a child. Shortly thereafter, China’s officials ordered an intrauterine device (IUD) implanted in his wife. Five years later, Wang’s wife got pregnant again because the IUD fell out, and the officials forced an abortion. In 2000, his wife again gave birth. Again, government officials showed up at their house and threatened to sterilize either him or his wife. Outraged, Wang fought against the official’s orders.
Wang recalled being kicked to the floor and hit with batons until he passed out. He woke up in the hospital and felt excruciating pain from a fractured foot. Government officials surgically inserted “Norplant” into his wife’s arm while Wang remained hospitalized.
In 2009, Lishou Wang entered the United States on a business visitor’s visa for three months and overstayed. Wang applied for asylum and withholding of removal over a year after the visa expired. In his search for asylum, Wang alleged that China’s officials tried to prosecute him for resisting birth control demands.
At the asylum hearing, Wang testified through an interpreter. The decision hinged on Wang’s inconsistent statements. He testified that China’s officials forced tubal ligation, a form of sterilization, and implanted Norplant in his wife, a form of contraceptive. The court interpreter misinterpreted “Norplant” for “tubal ligation.” The National Institute of Justice (IJ) said that the two procedures were so “markedly different” that it is impossible to confuse the two in any way. The IJ reasoned that even if Wang had told the truth, he “could not establish past persecution because he had resisted only an implant, not a forced abortion or sterilization.” The IJ, under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(B), ordered Wang’s removal for overstaying his visa.
The Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) affirmed the IJ’s findings and Wang petitioned for judicial review. On August 4, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard arguments in Lishou Wang v. Loretta E. Lynch. The IJ mistook Wang’s innocent confusion between the two birth control procedures to incorrectly conclude that it never occurred. The IJ did not have enough evidence to reject Wang’s honest mistake to discredit his inconsistent testimony about what procedure was forced on his wife.
The Seventh Circuit rejected the IJ’s holding because the statute protects those who were punished for opposing the population control program. According to 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42), Wang only had to show that he resisted a coercive population control program to establish relief said the Seventh Circuit because it “is not limited to only forced abortions and sterilizations.” On October 26, 2015, the three judge panel remanded the case to the Board for further proceedings.
Court interpreters play a key role in the democratic process. Many non-native English speakers rely on court interpreters to guide them through the legal system. A court interpreter’s error can result in the law being misapplied. Many are discouraged to utilize the courts because they do not speak fluent English nor understand the legal process. Court interpreters are key players in the courts and their assistance is highly valued. Like attorneys, court interpreters must show great attention to detail because one wrong interpretation can cost a case.