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Thanks for the well-researched article detailing the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s standard practice of incarcerating asylum seekers in Virginia county jails (“Insane Asylum,” 1/26).

The case of Huazhen Chen, the Chinese woman fleeing the prospect of forced sterilization in her country, raises a couple of important


1. Why are U.S. taxpayers financing the imprisonment of refugees whose family members have promised to support them and facilitate their presence at future court hearings? Is the (INS estimate) 20 percent flight risk worth the cost to us, not to mention the emotional hardship to asylum-seekers such as Chen?

2. With all the talk in government circles about protecting human rights in China, how is it possible—right here in the D.C. area—that Chen and others with serious claims of persecution are denied the opportunity of a face-to-face hearing with an immigration judge and instead are forced to attempt to establish credibility in court via video conferencing, using long-distance language interpretation?

This shameful treatment makes a mockery of the basic notions of freedom and justice that Americans claim to hold dear.