Korematsu Center files amicus brief warning against bias based on national origin

(April 29, 2010) Seattle University School of Law's Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, joined by the Asian Bar Association of Washington (ABAW), and the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Washington (VABAW) filed an amicus brief in a child custody case warning against bias on the basis of national origin. 

The brief was filed in the case In re Marriage of Katare, in which Brajesh Katare has been forbidden from traveling internationally with his children and ordered to relinquish his passport during visits with them. The trial court placed severe restrictions on Katare, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in India and works as an engineer in Redmond, Wash., based on improperly admitted expert testimony and other evidence that relied on stereotypes, inaccurate characterizations of Indian civil process, and risk profiles that emphasized national origin and culture without sufficient safeguards to avoid bias, the brief argues. 

This appeal raises for the third time whether the restrictions placed on a parent with ties to family outside the United States are appropriate. The trial court has twice been found to have provided an inadequate basis for the restrictions. Oral arguments are set for May 27, 2010, in Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals. 

"An expert was permitted to testify that the father fit a high-risk profile for international child abduction because of the father's national origin and his ties to his former home country," said Professor Robert Chang, director of the Korematsu Center. "We thought it important to add our voice in this case because of the tremendous negative impact that the trial court's order, if left intact, could have on immigrant communities. This is especially the case given the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment." 

An amicus brief is one filed by "a friend of the court," individuals and groups who are not parties in the lawsuit but who have an interest in the outcome of the case. Amicus briefs seek to provide insight on the issues, in addition to those addressed by the parties themselves. 

"Many in the Asian American community have strong ties to family in Asia and to Asian culture. It would be a shame if those ties could be the basis for unfair treatment in any family court proceeding," said Michele Wong, president of ABAW. 

VABAW President Huyen-Lam Q. Nguyen-Bull added, "As children of first-generation immigrant parents in Montana, my siblings and I were isolated not only from the communities my parents were accustomed to, but family as well. Traveling with my family to foreign countries to visit far-flung relatives dispersed throughout the Vietnamese diaspora was an important part of forming a sense of myself, not only as a member of an extended family, but as an American citizen and as a citizen of those communities that exist only in cultural and emotional spaces." 

The team that worked on the brief included Lorraine K. Bannai, associate director of the Korematsu Center; Robert S. Chang, director of the Korematsu Center; Huyen-Lam Q. Nguyen-Bull, VBAW president; and Michele Wong, ABAW president.

The Korematsu Center for Law and Equality works to advance justice through knowledge and advocacy.

For more information, contact Professor Robert Chang at 206.398.4025 or changro@seattleu.edu.

Read the brief.

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