Mr. Cipto Chandra initially applied for asylum because he feared persecution on account of his Chinese ancestry if he had to return to his home country of Indonesia. That petition was denied, and Mr. Chandra was ordered to leave the United States. Mr. Chandra did not leave, but instead remained in the U.S. and converted to Christianity. Four years later, he filed a motion to reopen his asylum claim. He provided evidence that conditions for Christians had worsened in Indonesia. Because Mr. Chandra had become a Christian, he would be subjected to the increased persecution if he returned to Indonesia.
|I believe... I can stay.|
Photo credit Kristina D.C. Hoeppner on Flickr.
Used under Creative Commons license.
In the Chandra decision, the Ninth Circuit joined other courts (the 6th, 7th, and 11th circuits) in saying that a change in personal circumstances, when combined with changed country conditions, can support a motion to reopen. The First Circuit has suggested this, but has never actually decided it.
Religious belief is only one type of personal circumstance that can lend support to a motion to reopen. In a case called Jiang v. U.S. Att'y Gen., the petitioner showed that she had a second child while living in the U.S., and that harsh enforcement of China's one-child policy was on the rise in her home province and home town. Because Ms. Jiang was able to show both changed personal circumstances (the second child) and changed country conditions (increased mistreatment of people who had more than one child), she was able to succeed on her motion to reopen. Other types of personal circumstances might also qualify.
The court dismissed the idea that Mr. Chandra's conversion could be self-serving. It cited religious freedom as "one of our oldest and most foundational policy interests... The timing of one's religious choice is not determinative of one's rights."
To read the full decision in Mr. Chandra's case, click here.