Amos Yee granted US asylum: What it means for him, S’poreans & America

He'll be back online to revisit the racial and political tensions in Singapore he missed the last 10 months.

By Belmont Lay | September 27, 2017

Singapore’s most infamous teenager Amos Yee has been granted asylum in the United States.

Here are the latest updates of his case:

• Friends of Yee said he will be freed immediately on Sept. 26, 2017 (Chicago time).

• An immigration appeals board upheld Yee’s application for asylum, saying he has a “well-founded” fear of persecution if he returned to Singapore.

• This decision, by the three-member United States Board of Immigration Appeals, upholds an earlier ruling from a lower court judge.

• The Department of Homeland Security had appealed against the immigration judge’s decision to grant the 18-year-old asylum.

• The written decision was dated Sept. 21 but only made known almost a week later.

• In total, Yee was detained for 293 days in the US.

• He applied for asylum in December 2016, when he landed in Chicago.

• He had left Singapore a day before he was to report for a medical examination ahead of enlistment into National Service.

What it means for Yee:

• He can apply to become an American citizen eventually, but in the meantime, he can apply for permanent residence a year after being granted asylum.

• He will risk arrest if he ever returns to Singapore because he skipped NS.

• He will be able to resume his criticisms of Singapore from abroad.

• He will gain popularity via his usual take-no-prisoners approach, but the question is for how long.

• His criticisms against Singapore would sting initially — but it may not last.

• The longer he remains outside of Singapore, the less weight his criticisms of Singapore will have because he is no longer subjected to the system he has been vehemently opposed to.

• He will need to find some way to survive independently in the US away from his family. In a previous BuzzFeed interview, Yee said he did not make plans on how he would eke out a living in a foreign land other than making videos.

• He can test the limits of free speech in the US, but his views will become less outstanding in an environment where extreme views are more common.

• He would also have to contend with an America that is more hostile towards outsiders under the Trump administration.

What it means for Singaporeans:

• Singaporeans who want to see Yee go can finally heave a sigh of relief as he won’t be back anytime soon, or at least, he is a problem that is no longer in the custody of Singapore.

• Yee’s case can also be interpreted as a rebuke of Singapore and the system here.

• The ruling that Yee deserves asylum is an interpretation of his incarceration here as a means to silence him politically and not that he was prosecuted based on grounds of his criminality.

• Yee has been kept off the Internet the past 10 months when race and politics in Singapore co-mingled and culminated into the non-existent Presidential Election 2017. He could come back to revisit some of those tensions post-detention via his online postings.

• Yee is a negative-positive example of a risk-taking Singaporean, whichever way you slice it. For someone to have been imprisoned here and then put under detention in a foreign country just to get his way, embodies a risk-taking appetite most people in polite society can hardly stomach.

• At the end of the day, he is also a product of the Singapore system. Whether he is recognised as an aberration or an example of the potential that can be achieved with a bit of derring-do, and if there is actually room for reform for individuals like him, will be debated for a while.

What it means for America:

• Yee’s case would not have been that significant if not for an America living through a constant heightened consciousness of racialist and nationalist politics.

• The Department of Homeland Security had actually appealed against Yee’s asylum bid because they characterised him as a troll who poses a threat to the social fabric of America.

• DHS had argued Yee’s successful asylum bid will set an unhealthy precedent of the types of foreigners allowed into the US.

• This successful bid also reveals the discrepancies in the rhetoric of tighter border controls and the realities of the freedom of movement of people into the US more than 10 months after President Donald Trump took office.

Let’s see how soon Yee will be back with his first video after falling off the grid all these months.

About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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