PASADENA (AP) — A federal appeals court on Friday breathed new life into the asylum application of a Chinese woman who fears she will be sterilized if she is sent back to her country because she has two U.S.-born children.

A three-judge panel for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Board of Immigration Appeals abused its discretion in denying a request by Yan Rong Zhao to have her case reopened.

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Zhao, who is now a 40-year-old garment factory worker in New York, fled an allegedly abusive relationship and came to the U.S. pregnant with her first son in 2005, said her lawyer, Theodore Cox. She applied for asylum after she was caught crossing the border from Mexico into California and was denied, he said.

She later gave birth to a second son and presented papers that showed Chinese officials would order her to be sterilized if she returned to the country, according to court papers.

The Board rejected her request to have her case reopened, citing insufficient evidence.

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Cox said the case now will be sent back to the Board. He said he expects it will be returned to an immigration court for consideration.

“This is an issue about whether you can claim a fear of future sterilization by violating the one-child policy when you have had children born in the United States,” Cox said. “The evidence is clear someone like this does have a well-founded fear.”

A message was left with the Justice Department seeking comment.

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