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Can Wee Shu Min get Asylum in the United States?

Wee Shu Min is the 18 year old daughter of Wee Siew Kim, a current Member of the Parliament of Singapore in the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (Jalan Kayu), representing the current ruling People's Action Party. She is purportedly a student in Raffles Junior College's scholarship program.

Wee Shu Min has been embroiled in a blogosphere controversy for the past few weeks (in October 2006) ever since she posted on her blog what many viewed as insensitive statements. According to Wikipedia, she allegedly dismissed the views of “Singaporean Derek Wee who voiced concerns on job security and age discrimination on his blog, she shot back with a take-no-prisoners diatribe that Derek is a ‘stupid crackpot’, ‘the sadder class’, over reliant on the government, and in Singapore where society is ‘far too survival of the fittest’ and to ‘get out of my elite uncaring face’.” See Wikipedia's entry for Wee_Shu_Min

Wikipedia also notes (with references) that her father, Wee Siew Kim, “has spoken out that he supported Shu Min's point in principle”, and further notes:

Her father has also claimed that her privacy has been violated. Critics point out however, that her father appears to have endorsed her elitist remarks and has failed to cover more important values such as empathy and humility, the government has previously made it clear that there was no such thing as privacy with the imprisonment of bloggers under the Sedition Act about more than a year earlier, and that Shu Min should be old enough to take responsibility the consequences of her statements. Two days after Wee Siew Kim had first spoken out on The Straits Times, he has since made an apology to those [who] felt [they] were offended by statements made in his interview and in particular to Derek Wee, though netizens were left wondering that if it was genuine or tokenistic to appease.

See Wikipedia's entry for Wee_Shu_Min

All of this raises the hypothetical question of whether Wee Shu Min could obtain asylum in the United States (if she traveled to the U.S.), assuming that she is feeling persecuted, as a blogger. In order to successfully claim asylum in the U.S., one must have a “well-founded fear of persecution” under U.S. Immigration law (Sec. 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act). The persecution can be “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”.

Therefore, it would appear that Wee Shu Min’s political opinions could form the basis of a claim for asylum. However, the problem with this hypothetical is that it is highly unlikely that Wee Shu Min could make a reasonable case that she is being persecuted since she is the daughter of Wee Siew Kim, a current Member of the Parliament of Singapore in the ruling People's Action Party. Therefore, even if Wee Shu Min finds herself as the target of a lot of unwanted controversy, or notoriety, that in itself does not establish “persecution”.

Of course, other bloggers who allegedly face imprisonment under Singapore’s Sedition Act could possibly make a successful case for asylum if they can show a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on “political opinion”. After all, America’s Statue of Liberty hardly shows an “elite uncaring face”. Since 1886, Ms. Liberty has shown a caring face with her “blog” to the world:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

And for hundreds of years, the members of “the sadder class”—the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless, the tempest-tost—have been coming to America, and they have built the United States of America.

Of course, the United States also aims to be a meritocracy, which rewards merit. In fact, U.S. immigration law has a special provision for Singaporean citizens only: the H-1B1. This is a special professional visa for Singaporean citizens. It is available for professionals, i.e., occupations which require at least a bachelor's degree, e.g., teachers, computer programmers, engineers, accountants, etc. One of its key advantages is that it permits citizens of Singapore to get around the problems with the H-1B quota (the regular professional visa open to citizens of all countries) since the quota for regular H-1Bs often runs out quickly. Therefore, if Wee Siew Kim graduates and obtains her bachelor’s degree she may be able to qualify for an H-1B1, as well as an H-1B, in the land that tries to have “a caring face”.

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See Neil Diamond's Coming to America

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More information about the H-1B1 for Singaporeans:

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