Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Salvation Army in Louisiana Mystified by Chinese Immigrant

Welcome to "Salvation Army workers have a mystery living in their midst.

Officials are trying to learn as much as they can about a Chinese man who was brought to one of the charity's shelter earlier this month following his release from immigration custody.

Aside from some names and a sketchy story involving a restaurant in New Orleans, the shelter has few clues about how to reunite the man with his family.

Workers believe the man's name is Zhou Yi, but he speaks no English and appears to have some mild retardation, The Gadsden Times reported. The 21-year-old man may have family in New Orleans, but no one is positive.

'I can't imagine being in a foreign country, not being able to understand what anyone around you was saying,' said Kathy Willis, who has tried to communicate with the man.

Zhou had been in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service since September when he was released from the Etowah County jail on May 7 and taken to the Salvation Army shelter.

INS officials tried to use an interpreter by telephone to communicate with Zhou - listed by the INS as Chou Yi - but the interpreter couldn't understand him. Another Chinese detainee also tried to talk with him but couldn't, an INS official said.

Willis, Monza Miller and Steve Minton began looking for ways to communicate with Zhou.

Minton faxed a letter to the Chinese consulate in Houston and contacted the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., but neither office was able to help.

The first real break came last week when Ana Liang, a student at Gadsden State Community College, was able to talk to Zhou. Staff members of U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt's office also got involved and got a Chinese interpreter from Birmingham in touch by phone.



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