Eddy Zheng's Deportation Case Will Not Die

Categories: Immigration
In the final battle.
In 2005, the East Bay Express published a story called "The Last Stand of Eddy Zheng."  Well, it's been six years and Zheng is still standing -- in more or less the same spot. But now the man who was paroled only to face deportation is seeing his saga enter its final round. 

Zheng, a 41-year-old Chinese national, first appeared on the feds' radar after he was convicted for a bizarre 1986 robbery in which he and some friends tied up a family and raided their house and  convenience store. He was finally paroled, and has since been fighting his deportation. On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Northern California sent Zheng's case back to an immigration judge for reconsideration, media outlets are reporting.

The justices ruled 3-0 that the immigration judge didn't take into account Zheng's contributions to the community which he started while in prison and has continued as a social worker since he was paroled in 2005.
Zheng's attorney, Zachary Nightingale, tells SF Weekly that he expects the case won't be decided for another year or two. The resolution will bring to a close a case that has provided intriguing fodder for mainstream media and alt-weeklies for the last decade. The media-savvy Zheng has even been writing about it himself on his Web site

In a 2002 SF Weekly cover story, Zheng's tale was that of the rehabilitated man who couldn't get paroled. He was a Chinese immigrant who came to San Francisco at age 12. At 16, he was part of an armed robbery and kidnapping for which he was sentenced to seven years to life in prison. The Parole Board granted Zheng parole in 1998 at San Quentin, for having been a model prisoner who had learned English, completed his GED and associate's degree, and created an antiviolence curriculum for youth. Yet his release date was rejected by tough-on-crime then-Gov. Gray Davis, and he continued to be denied parole.

But in 2005, he was finally paroled, only to be handed over to ICE officials for deportation. East Bay Express (which at the time shared a parent company with SF Weekly) wrote the out-of-the-frying-pan and into-the-fire story: Zheng's only possible salvation from deportation would come because he married a U.S. citizen, Shelly Smith, in 2005, and Zheng petitioned for a marriage visa.

As one activist told the Express at the time: "The state and taxpayers of California have spent probably close to $1 million on incarcerating and encouraging his rehabilitation, and we finally have produced someone who actually is rehabilitated. Then you export him, and you've wasted him."

Yet on Friday, the Court of Appeals seems to have turned the tide in Zheng's favor.

"I think the message is going to be this guy deserves the waiver," says Nightingale, who has represented Zheng since 2006. "So hopefully we get a fuller consideration the second time around with the message from the Court of Appeals being 'You didn't properly look at everything the first time.'" 

The media will fire up once more to write about the final decision, but after that Zheng might revel in a new experience: being yesterday's news.

Photo from eddyzheng.com

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