Golden Venture Documentary Movie - Title Logo
A documentary about the US immigration crisis
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Immigration Blog :::::
Latest updates on Golden Venture, immigration at Open Border Central

New Yorker article on Sister Ping and the Golden Venture.
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"Making it Ashore, but Still Chasing U.S. Dream" The New York Times. Sunday front page
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Declassified immigration policy documents
from the White House, NSC, DOJ, etc.
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Facts (as of 2007)

Status of passengers >
Lives of passengers >
The voyage >
Detention >
Advocates >
Fujian Province >
Coercive birth control>
Asylum >
Snakeheads >
The ship >
Amir Tobing >
Passenger summary >

Status of Golden Venture passengers today

  • About 220 GV passengers live in the US.
  • Of the 111 who were deported, about 60 have returned to the US illegally.
  • A group of 30 passengers who were releasedfrom jail on a presidential parole live in legal limbo, neither legal nor illegal. They face the risk of deportation.

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Lives of the passengers today

  • Most passengers work in or own Chinese restaurants.
  • They live throughout the country. In today’s American, Chinatown is everywhere.
  • Many have gotten married and have American-born children.
  • Those without legal status haven’t seen their families in more than 14 years, including some with wives and children in China.
  • A handful have become US citizens.

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The voyage

  Feb., 1993 90 immigrants board Golden Venture off Thailand.
  March, 1993 200 more immigrants board the ship off Mombasa, Kenya. They had been stranded there for a year after another smuggling ship, the Najd II, broke down.
  June 6, 1993 The Golden Venture runs aground 300 yards from a New York City beach, near Ft. Tilden, a federal park in the borough of Queens. Ten passengers die. The rest are immediately detained by the INS.

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Detention

  • The INS detained Golden Venture passengers in jails around the US. Almost 150 were held in the York County, PA jail.
  • 99 were sent back to China. 12 received asylum in South America through a deal brokered by the Vatican.
  • 53 passengers were detained until Feb. 1997, when President Clinton ordered their parole. They were not given full legal status.

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Advocates

  • Soon after the immigrants arrived in the York County jail, a group of York attorneys volunteered to represent them in asylum hearings.
  • People from York were drawn to help the detainees. They began to hold weekly vigils outside the jail.
  • An unusual cross-ideological coalition came together. It included Abortion foes opposed to China’s one-child policy, feminists, human rights activists and citizens who had never joined a cause.
  • Today the Golden Venture coalition has become the Golden Vision Foundation, which operates a facility in York, Friendship House, which provides housing and transitional services to released detainees.

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Fujian Province

  • Almost all the Golden Venture passengers come from Fujian Province, in Southeastern China, across from Taiwan.
  • Generations of Fujianese have gone abroad, first settling in Southeast Asia . In the early 1980s, Fujianese began to come to the US in large numbers, remaking Chinatown in New York and other cities.
  • Fujian is one of China’s most prosperous provinces, with money sent back from abroad fueling economic growth.

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Coercive birth control

  • In the 1970s, China initiated population control policies limiting families to one child.
  • In the early 90s, birth control enforcement was stepped up in Fujian Province. There were multiple reliable reports of forced sterilization and abortion.
  • Right to Life groups in the US fervently oppose the one-child policy, and have been a powerful political force for granting asylum for one-child applicants.
  • Immigration appeals courts ruled that one-child claims were not grounds for asylum, but were superseded by an executive order from the first President Bush.
  • In 1996, Congress passes legislation granting asylum to a maximum of 1000 one child Chinese asylum seekers per year.

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Asylum

  • Most of the passengers requested political asylum based on the claim that they were fleeing China’s coercive population control measures.
  • Under the first Bush administration, most “one-child” asylum claims were successful. The Clinton Administration changed the Bush policy.
  • The Clinton Administration ordered the INS to detain all the passengers, rather than release them on bond, which had been the previous policy.
  • Advocates charged that the detainees were subjected to rushed hearings with predetermined outcomes. They further charged that the White House directly interfered with the immigration judiciary.
  • Only about 35 of the passengers ultimately won political asylum.

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The snakeheads

  • People smugglers known as “snakeheads” began to smuggle Chinese immigrants by ship in the early 90s.
  • Dozens of ships came across the Pacific. Most were intercepted.
  • Lee Peng Fei, who was based in Bangkok, was the mastermind of the Golden Venture voyage.
  • Sister Ping, the notorious snakehead then based in New York’s Chinatown, put up the money for the Golden Venture. The Fuk Ching gang was also involved.
  • Small boats were supposed to meet the Golden Venture off shore. A gang war in New York caused those plans to fall apart. The Snakeheads took control of the ship and deliberately ran it aground.
  • Lee Peng Fei was arrested in Bangkok, extradited and sentenced to 20 years. Sister Ping was also arrested and extradited. In March, 2006, she was sentenced to 35 years.

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The ship

  • The Golden Venture was a 147-foot vessel, registered in Honduras. It was previously known as the Tong Sern. It was classed as a “coastal freighter.”
  • Snakehead Lee Peng Fei bought the ship in Singapore sometime in 1992.
  • The Golden Venture was auctioned off by the government and put back into service, renamed the United Caribbean.
  • In August, 2000, the freighter was towed off the coast of Boca Raton FL and deliberately sunk to the bottom, to be used as an artificial reef.
  • The wreck became a popular destination for scuba tours.
  • The hurricanes of 2005 broke the vessel apart. The hulk now lies scattered on the ocean floor.

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Amir Tobing

  • Amir Humuntal Lubman Tobing was the Indonesian Captain of the Golden Venture.
  • When the small roundezvous vessels that were supposed to meet the Golden Venture failed to show up, Tobing wanted to take the ship to a safe harbor for supplies.
  • Snakeheads on the boat mutinied, and confined Tobing to his cabin.
  • Tobing was sentenced to four years in federal prison. He was later deported to Indonesia.
  • Less than a year later, Tobing was caught by the Coast Guard off the coast of Washington on a burning sail boat, full of marijuana. He’s now serving 10 years.

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Passenger summary

  • 286 passengers were on the ship.
  • 262 men, 24 women
  • 10 died.
  • Six escaped.
  • 14 juveniles were released to court custody.
  • 35 received political asylum.
  • 55 were released on bond or INS parole.
  • Two received artist’s visas.
  • 53 were released on a parole from President Clinton, but were not awarded legal status.
  • 111 were deported, including 12 who found political asylum in Latin America.
  • Of the 111 deported, it’s believed that about half have returned to the US illegally.

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