9th Circuit Makes a Ruling that I Actually LIKE???
Sunday, May 01, 2005
By Henry Weinstein, Los Angeles Times
In a case spotlighting horrific conditions for disabled children in Russia, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled the other day that the family of a handicapped Russian child who was persecuted there for his condition is eligible for political asylum in the United States.
Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Stephen Reinhardt noted that the family might well qualify for asylum because simply caring for a disabled child in Russia could be viewed as a political act. But the ruling also asserted a more basic principle: "In providing care for their disabled children, parents are doing something more fundamental than engaging in politics."
The court's decision stemmed from unspeakable events in the life of Evgueni, who was born to Victoria and Dmitri Tchoukhrova in Vladivostok in 1991.
The child's disability resulted chiefly from medical negligence during his birth at a Russian state-owned hospital, where staff members first induced labor and then abandoned the mother for an entire night, depriving the fetus of sufficient oxygen.
The next morning, because induced labor had stopped, hospital personnel tried to forcibly extract the child. In the process, they broke his neck.
Instead of giving the newborn child medical care, the hospital staff initially "threw Evgueni into a container holding" remains of aborted babies and medical waste, Reinhardt wrote, telling his mother that "they didn't see the reason why he needed to live." The mother fell into unconsciousness.
"Against all odds," Reinhardt wrote, the child survived and was retrieved from the disposal bin.
Then, government officials tried to intimidate the couple into abandoning their son to a state-run orphanage. The parents refused, but Evgueni was transferred to an institution for orphaned children with birth defects.
The parents had to battle for two months to gain entrance to the facility, where they found children "wrapped in old, wet, dirty linens," abandoned and crying out in hunger.
The Tchoukhrovas eventually got Evgueni out of the orphanage and into a private clinic. After the child was diagnosed as permanently disabled, he was denied any government medical care.
At the age of 3, Evgueni accompanied his parents to San Diego, where through treatment there he was able to walk for the first time.
However, when the family returned to Russia, government officials still treated him with disdain. He was denied access to public school, despite the fact that his disability was physical and not mental.
Five years ago, the family returned to the United States, where Victoria filed the principal application for political asylum. An immigration judge found that the family's testimony was credible but ruled that the suffering did not rise to the level of persecution, and so denied the asylum request. The Bureau of Immigration Appeals upheld that decision.
The 9th Circuit reversed that ruling.