Jia “Jenny” Hou walked out of a Pennsylvania detention facility a free woman last week after an immigration judge decided not to deport her to China. The treasurer of former City Comptroller John Liu’s 2013 mayoral campaign had been mired in legal problems since she was convicted in federal court of soliciting illegal donations.
“The past five years was like a tough war for me,” Hou said in a statement. “Now it’s over.”
The immigration court’s decision, rendered by Judge Kuyomars Golparvar, came at the end of a three-hour hearing in York, Pa. Liu, who was not charged with any wrongdoing in the original case, sat with Hou’s family in the courtroom and spoke with reporters after her release.
“Today is a happy day for Jenny, who has shown incredible determination and resolve throughout this five-year ordeal,” he said.
Hou was 27 years old in 2013 when she was found in Manhattan federal court guilty of attempted wire fraud, obstructing justice and making false statements to authorities and though she faced up to 45 years in prison, she was sentenced to just 10 months. She filed an appeal midway through her jail time and was released to wait for the results at home.
After losing that appeal, Hou was sent back to prison last March, and when she completed her sentence in December, she was transferred to an immigration detention center to await the court’s decision on whether she would be deported because of her felony conviction.
After the court allowed her to stay in the United States, Hou vowed to use good judgment in her future and thanked the Chinese community in eastern Queens for their support throughout this painful period.
“This story truly resonates in my immigrant community,” state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said. “She came to the U.S. when she was just 11 and she felt like she was an American going to Bronx Science High School like so many of our children. We all supported her with letters asking for clemency.”
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) also wrote letters to Judge Golparvar as well. After Hou was released from the York Detention Center in York, Pa., she was reunited with her family.
“It’s been a long road to redemption for Jenny,” Koo said. “Our justice system agreed with many in our community who advocated that a promising youth should have a second chance for a future in America with her family. Congratulations to Jenny Hou and her friends and family on her return.”
Hou left without speaking to reporters, but in her statement she vowed to use good judgment to guard her future.
“Today is a happy day also for our entire community that never wavered in our love and support for Jenny,” Liu said. “I am proud of Jenny and excited to see her continue all her good work for her family and our community.”
When he rendered his decision, Golparvar told Hou that she had already paid for her mistake and she should learn a lesson.
“I think she paid the price for the wrongdoing she was convicted of and she’s paid her dues,” he said. “In this country we give people a second chance.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr