Two female asylum seekers who were offered asylum in exchange for sex can sue the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. See Xue v. Powell, No. 08-56421 (9th Cir. Sept. 2, 2010). The two women are Chinese nationals who filed affirmative asylum claims and appeared for interviews at the Asylum Office in Los Angeles. Asylum Officer Thomas A. Powell, Jr. interviewed each woman and requested sexual favors and money in exchange for granting their asylum applications. Mr. Powell was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to three years and nine months imprisonment. He died shortly thereafter.
In 2001, the two asylum seekers sued Mr. Powell, his supervisor, and the U.S. government. The District Court dismissed the claims against the U.S. government under the FTCA. Under the FTCA, the United States is only liable “under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred [California].” See 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). In a split decision, the Ninth Circuit reversed in part, holding that, under California law, the plaintiffs could state a claim for infliction of emotional distress and interference with the civil rights of the plaintiffs. The case will now be remanded to the District Court for trial.
Meanwhile, one of the asylum seekers received asylum based on her fear of persecution as a Christian. The other asylum seeker’s case was denied; she claimed a fear of persecution on account of China’s one child policy. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, she faces deportation after the resolution of her lawsuit.