On June 8, 2020, I wrote a legal analysis of an old and little-cited 1967 Board of Immigration Appeals decision published as Matter of Man, 12 I&N Dec. 305 (BIA 1967). The decision involved an alien who had been born in Hong Kong and was a native and citizen of the Republic of China (Taiwan) who was seeking relief in the form of withholding of deportation from the United States under former section 243(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act on the basis that he would face persecution in Hong Kong. In that article, I briefly noted that I liked one phrase used by the Board in the decision: “A strange admixture of contentions.” In this post, I will study the Board’s most colorful description of the respondent’s arguments.
Those who are interested in the decision as a legal matter and how it fits in U.S. immigration law may read my earlier article. I also briefly discussed the role of the Board of Immigration Appeals in the system of U.S. immigration laws in that post.
“A Strange Admixture of Contentions”
I explained in my law article on Matter of Man that the Board of Immigration Appeals found the alien respondent’s arguments in favor of his application for relief to be unpersuasive – a view with which I am in accord. Before the Board listed the reasons why it was not persuaded by the respondent’s arguments, it summarized its overall assessment with a colorful turn of phrase:
Respondent has come forth with a strange admixture of contentions.Matter of Man, 12 I&N Dec. 305, 306 (BIA 1967)
The Board then went on to list the claims of the respondent that it found to be both unconvincing and incoherent. But we examined those claims in my first article on Matter of Man. Today we examine the phrase.
A Study of Admixture
The secret ingredient that brings “a strange admixture of contentions” together is the word “admixture.”
While I had seen the word “admixture” before coming across it in Matter of Man while researching immigration precedents on economic persecution claims, I do not recall where. My impression is that “admixture” is not a commonly used word. Its meaning, however, should be plain to English readers. But not content to state the obvious, let us turn to some classic dictionaries for the best definitions.
“Admixture” in The Century Dictionary
First, we turn to The Century Dictionary (1889-91) for the definition of admixture – you will also find “admix” and “admixtion” in the screenshot below.
The BIA appears to have used the second definition of “admixture”:
That which is mingled or formed by a mingling: a compound made by a mixture.The Century Dictionary
That is, the respondent had mixed contentions, resulting in a “strange admixture.”
“Admixture” in Webster’s Second
Some may fear that The Century Dictionary is out-dated, although let it be submitted for the record that classic dictionaries never go out of style. But for those looking for a modern definition, I turned the physical pages of my own 1952 copy of Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition unabridged, for its definition of “admixture.”
Webster’s Second did not provide as many definitions and examples for the admixture trio as had the century dictionary. However, it was published quite a bit closer to Matter of Man than was Century, making it instructive. I think the part of the second definition in Webster’s Second that refers to the combination of “different substances together” in a compound or mixture fits the Board’s use of admixture. However, the definition of admixture as meaning “mixture” – which is also included in the definition – fits the Board’s use-case as well.
The Phrase as a Whole
The Board used “a strange admixture of contentions” to refer to two claims made by the respondent. (See the original decision below with “a strange admixture of contentions” highlighted on the second page of the PDF.)
The first of these claims was that the respondent would be subjected to economic persecution by the then-British government if he were forced to return to Hong Kong, despite the fact that he had lived in Hong Kong with his wife and children for his entire life without incident with the British government. The respondent’s second contention was that he could alternatively be subject to persecution from the government of communist China in the event that it took over Hong Kong at some point in the future. Finally, the Board noted that the respondent claimed a fear of returning to Hong Kong while simultaneously, in the context of a separate and still-unavailing bid for relief, stated that he would willingly return to Hong Kong to secure a U.S. immigrant visa.
In referring to these claims as a “strange admixture,” the Board appears to have been touching on two issues.
The Claims Did Not Fit and Two Claims Were at Tension
The claims did not combine to make a single compelling case for relief. No common thread tied them together. The respondent first claimed that the British government would persecute him. He next claimed that the Chinese government – which would not govern Hong Kong for another three decades – would persecute him in the event that it took over. Finally, and perhaps most pertinent to the Board’s focusing on the admixture of contents, the respondent expressed a willingness to return to Hong Kong voluntarily to obtain a visa while simultaneously claiming he was afraid to return to Hong Kong.
The Claims Were Strange Individually
The Board considered each of the respondent’s claims strange in and of themselves, separate and apart from the greater admixture. Each claim was self-defeating in one way or another, and the sought after relief was predicated upon a “common knowledge” that the Board found somewhat uncommon.
Thus, the Board considered each of the respondent’s three claims individually to be simply strange. When combined, they did not create a compelling case for relief. Most troubling, the third contention – the respondent’s separate bid for an immigrant visa (which was precluded because he was an alien maritime crewman), was in direct conflict with the respondent’s first two claims.
There are several reasons that I decided to cover Matter of Man here at The New Leaf Journal in 2020. Firstly, I thought of the decision due to events in Hong Kong in the spring of 2020. While the respondent’s claims for relief in Matter of Man were poorly constructed, the case makes for interesting reading knowing what has ultimately become of Hong Kong under Chinese communist rule. The second reason I was interested in covering it was because it received no interest or citations by the Board or courts subsequent to its 1967 publication, making it a sort of ghost precedent in immigration law (of which there are many – especially from the Board’s early decades).
The final reason I remembered the decision was for the Board’s money-line: “A strange admixture of contentions.” The Board used a somewhat unusual word in an evocative way to summarize the problems with the respondent’s arguments to avoid deportation to Hong Kong. The passage received little notice in 1967 or in the decades since, but perhaps our work here at The New Leaf Journal will give Matter of Man – a well-reasoned decision – its day in the Sun.