At issue, according to Kyung Jin Lee, KQED's reporter at the hearing, is whether a Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision to remove Zheng considered positive factors in addition to his prison record. Zheng spent 19 years in prison stemming rom a robbery-kidnapping he took part in as a teen.
In addition to his job working with at-risk youth, Zheng has also become known for his poetry and prison blog.You may remember that his incarceration became a cause celebre in the late 1990s, after then-governor Gray Davis ignored a unanimous parole board vote in his favor, refusing to sign off on his release. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger finally granted Zheng parole in 2005, but because his imprisonment had prevented him from becoming a naturalized citizen, he was taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security pending deportation proceedings. He was set free in 2007, but an immigration court eventually ordered that he be deported to China, where he lived as a boy. The appeal of that order was today.
Zheng is currently employed at the Community Youth Center of San Francisco, which offers youth services and works to decrease juvenile crime and gang violence in Chinatown. Organizers for his cause list a raft of Bay Area politicians who support his case.
More supporters, about a hundred people, showed up at the hearing today. One of those included Ben Wang, of the Asian Prison Support Committee, who has collaborated with Zheng on several projects, including a book.
"I've seen Eddy make a positive impact on people's lives and be an inspiration to young people," Wang says. "I really believe strongly he should be allowed to remain in the U.S."
Here's Zheng's lawyer, Zachary Nightingale, saying the deportation review process was not done incorrectly.
Justice Department attorney Sarah Maloney, reports Kyung Jin Lee, countered that the Board correctly considered both positive and negative factors in coming to its decision.
Below is a video of Zheng's 2007 homecoming.