January 22, 2002
Appeal Made for Religious
Liberty in Vietnam
By Nick Madigan
GARDEN GROVE, CA (New York Times) - In the virtual world, brawny heroes stalk and destroy their cyber enemies in a cacophony of explosions and gunfire, their every move choreographed by youths who spend hours playing the dark, violent games in cafes and arcades equipped with dozens of computer terminals.
But here the carnage on the screens has moved into the real world, the police say, with gang members descending on some cafes to exact vengeance for offenses that usually originate elsewhere.
On Dec. 30, Phuong Huu Ly, 20, died after he was stabbed in the head with a screwdriver in the parking lot outside the PC Cafe, one of more than 20 cybercafes that have opened in the last three years in this Orange County city of 174,000 south of Los Angeles. Jim Hoang Nguyen, 21, who was on probation for a 1999 house burglary in Fountain Valley, was arrested and charged with murder. Mr. Nguyen is thought to be a gang member, the police said.
Eight youths, some girls and all high school students, were arrested after three young men were attacked with baseball bats, hammers and wrenches on Nov. 3 at the same location. In December, a man was stabbed in the arm at the I-Net PC Cafe.
But it was the murder of Mr. Ly that brought the confluence of gangs and computer games - once the province of harmless nerds - to a dangerous level.
"That was a wake-up call," said Bruce A. Broadwater, 60, who has been the mayor of Garden Grove for eight years. "We suddenly thought, What's going on here? Are these cafes places where hoodlums hang out, like pool halls in the old days?"
On Tuesday, the City Council plans to consider restrictions on the cybercafes. Among the suggestions are a moratorium on permits to open more cafes. Some cafes stay open until 4 a.m, but the proposed rules would have them close at midnight. Guards and closed-circuit surveillance cameras would also be required at the cafes. No more than one computer would be allowed for every 20 square feet of floor space, Mr. Broadwater said. Some cafes have as many as 60 or 70 terminals so close together that they violate fire codes, he said.
"I've gone and looked at a few of these places, and I've seen very little wrong with them," Mr. Broadwater said. But just because their patrons are honing their computer skills "doesn't mean they shouldn't be in school," he said.
Today, perhaps because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, several of the cafes were very busy at midday.
"Nine of 10 people here are playing video games," said a man who was spending a few hours at Net2Net, a cyberjoint on Garden Grove Boulevard. The man, who like more than a third of the population here is of Vietnamese ancestry, was playing Counterstrike, a particularly violent game, with 20 other players on other terminals at Net2Net and other locations.
Nearby, Don Le, 14, was playing so intently that he did not look away from the computer screen while speaking with a visitor about the violence, which he said he had heard about but not seen.
"The owners keep it under control," Mr. Le said. "The places I've been in are quite safe."
A co-owner of Net2Net, who would not give his name, said he planned to attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday to discuss security improvements. "We're going to support whatever the city wants to do to protect our customers from these kinds of accidents," he said. "We've already spent $800 to buy four cameras and a monitor, and we're looking into hiring a security guard."
Detective Peter Vi, who specializes in investigating gangs, said most problems with youths in the area began in the schools. "It'll start with a personal problem, and then someone will break someone else's window and he'll call in a friend who's a gang member," Detective Vi said. "Then it'll become a beating, and it'll evolve to gang on gang."
Most gangs are Vietnamese, he said, although there are many Koreans and Hispanics in the area, which includes the enclave of Little Saigon in Westminster.
"There are at least a dozen Vietnamese gangs in Westminster, Garden Grove and Santa Ana," said Detective Vi, who is investigating four serious fights at cybercafes, not counting the killing of Mr. Ly.
In December at a business called Netzone, several gang members fired from their car at a group of young men who had been playing on computers.
"The gangs go look in these places because they know, hopefully, that their enemy is going to be there," Detective Vi said.
The trouble at cybercafes is not confined to Garden Grove.
On Nov. 2 in Kearny Mesa, near San Diego, a boy, 17, was stabbed in the chest in a fight over a computer game in an arcade. On Oct. 17, 2000, Hung Ly, 18, was stabbed to death and Andrew Vu, 18, and Quan To, 21, were hurt in a fight between rival gangs at the Gameworks video arcade in Santa Ana.
At the PC Cafe, where Phuong Huu Ly was stabbed, the manager, Eric Cho, 28, said some customers played on computers from opening time at 11 a.m. until 2 a.m., paying a $15 fee instead of the usual $2 an hour.
"If they ditch school, there's no place else to go," Mr. Cho said. "Most of the kids are nice kids. They just play games. They don't cause trouble."
By Mary Beth Sheridan
(Washington Post) - Applications for U.S. citizenship have surged in recent months, with many foreign residents rushing to become Americans because of the fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks, according to lawyers, civic groups and others who help immigrants.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service said that its most recent data show that 145,765 people applied for citizenship in October and November, up 61 percent from the same period in 2000. The agency said the increase is partly because of people scrambling to beat an upcoming fee increase, but also appears to reflect a new sense of vulnerability among foreign residents.
Nafisa Karimi is among the immigrants who have hurried to apply. The Fairfax resident said she fled Afghanistan in 1998 after Taliban gunmen attacked her family home. Normally, the 73-year-old refugee wouldn't apply for citizenship until next year, after completing the required five years of legal U.S. residence.
But one morning in October, Karimi and 15 members of her family piled into cars and headed for the nearby home of an Afghan interpreter, rousting him from bed to fill out their citizenship applications.
"It's because I'm scared about September 11," said Karimi, a retired banker. "I don't want anybody to kick me out of the United States because of what happened in my country, and because of the terrorist activity here."
Chances are, Karimi's early application won't hasten her bid for citizenship. But her fears are representative of many foreign residents' concerns of a more hostile environment for immigrants, say lawyers and immigrant advocates.
"People never thought they needed to get [citizenship]. They thought, 'Hey, I'll get it when I get it,' " said Ismail Laher, an immigration attorney in Burke. But lately, he has had many calls from immigrants spooked about new legal measures, such as military tribunals to try non-citizens accused of terrorism.
"It's obvious these are things the U.S. government can use against people who are not citizens," Laher said.
Several other lawyers with Middle Eastern and South Asian clients said their businesses have been booming, as immigrants have sought to become citizens or legal permanent residents, the first step on the path to citizenship.
"I can tell by the way they are requesting these applications, they're worried," said Anthony Fatemi, who runs a law practice on Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda.
He said clients were asking "whether I'm going to be denied . . . if I [apply for citizenship] down the road, because I'm Muslim or of Arab descent."
Sept. 11 isn't the only explanation for the increase in naturalization applications. INS officials say the number of petitions had started to rise gradually before the terrorist attacks. For example, they went up 17 percent in August, compared with the same month in 2000. That was partly because of fee increases that will take effect next month.
But the officials said that Sept. 11 also played a role. They said the spike last fall appears to fit a pattern in which immigrants rush to become citizens when they feel targeted, like they did after a 1996 law was enacted that reduced benefits for non-citizens.
The INS doesn't tabulate the nationalities of the new applicants. But more than just Muslim immigrants appear affected by the fallout from Sept. 11. Some local groups that assist Korean and Vietnamese immigrants said they, too, had noted increased interest in citizenship.
"We're definitely seeing it in the Korean-American community," said Songbae Lee, director of the Washington chapter of the Korean American Coalition. He said the group is now holding monthly workshops on citizenship, rather than the sporadic ones it offered before Sept. 11.
He attributed the demand for citizenship to the high-profile crackdown on foreigners caught up in the anti-terrorism investigations.
"The rights of non-citizens are being affected. It's making them realize how important [citizenship] is," Lee said.
To become a citizen, immigrants generally have to live in the United States for five years as legal permanent residents, pass an English and civics test and show good moral character, through such activities as paying taxes. Legal residents are not eligible to vote or receive some government benefits.
As a legal permanent resident, Karimi, the Afghan refugee, can live and work in the United States indefinitely. That's not enough, though: She longs for the guarantees of citizenship.
"I don't want Immigration to change the law and make it harder for us" to live in the United States, she said through an interpreter, explaining her eagerness to naturalize. She prizes U.S. citizenship after living through such tumultuous years in Afghanistan, where family members say they were attacked because of work done by Karimi's daughter Nazira, a journalist.
Not all immigrants seeking citizenship share Karimi's fears. Cecilia Munoz, of the National Council of La Raza, said the Sept. 11 tragedy moved some to apply for citizenship out of patriotism.
"Every generation [of immigrants] has this moment of truth . . . where people look at each other and say, 'Should we go back?' And they shake their heads and say, 'No, we can't, this is our home,' " she said.
Don Min, a Korean who owns a dry cleaning shop in Adams Morgan, said the response to the Sept. 11 attacks was a positive factor in his recent decision to naturalize after 15 years as a legal resident.
"After September 11, all American people love our country," Min said.
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