Philly’s Stand on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

On February 14, 2013, Valentine’s Day, Philadelphia City Council officially adopted Resolution #130084, a set of recommendations for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) to the 113th United States Congress. 1Love Movement, BPSOS Delaware Valley, Juntos, Fight for Philly, HIAS and other members of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, worked closely with Councilmembers James Kenney and Maria Quinones-Sanchez, the sponsors of the Resolution, and their staff to craft a document that would represent the analysis and struggles of communities in Philadelphia.

Since the CIR debate launched in DC and Congressmembers began releasing priorities and policy prescriptions earlier this year, many local communities have felt encouraged by movement in the right direction, but also disheartened and angered by the divisive and detached language being used to address our deep and complex conditions as immigrant families in this country.

In testimony at City Council Chambers before the vote to adopt the Resolution, 1Love Organizer and Co-founder Mia-lia Kiernan stated:

“We are here in City Council today for Philadelphia to have a voice in the national move to pass CIR, but more importantly for Philadelphia to empower ourselves in a national effort that often loses the voices from the ground. Now is the time to be clear about what Comprehensive Immigration Reform means for us…Our analysis is full and politically educated and strong, and we have our direct experiences and our hearts behind us. Our federal government will have to respond to its failures in law making as more and more local governments take a stand.”

Read full 1Love testimony here.

The Resolution includes:

  • WHEREAS, The City of Philadelphia believes in redemption and second chances, and supports an end to the practice of retroactive deportation, based on prior criminal convictions, of community members who have already completed their sentences and have since improved their lives
  • WHEREAS, The City of Philadelphia recognizes that immigration reform must protect the right of all families to stay together, regardless of immigration status, family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status, and provide sufficient family-based channels for migration in the future 
  • WHEREAS, Comprehensive immigration reform must provide a mechanism for young people who have grown up in this country to become citizens able to fully contribute to our shared future, and this mechanism must be equally available to those who are striving to achieve GEDs, vocational training, and alternative education in addition to completion of a high school diploma and higher education studies
  • WHEREAS, The City of Philadelphia has recognized the harm caused by the costly mass incarceration of minority and immigrant communities, and believes that immigration reform must also reform federal laws and practices that have criminalized civil immigration violations; increased the use of indefinite immigration detention and contributed to the incarceration of Pennsylvania residents without due process; and expanded the definition of “Criminal Alien” to include young people

The Resolution was adopted with massive applause and cheering in Council Chambers. And through 1Love’s national network of allies and community groups, it was sent to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who wish to adopt it as representative of their City’s stance on CIR as well.

Read and download the full Resolution here.

We encourage and stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers around the country who continue to push their local governments to adopt similar Resolutions so we can show our strength in this national fight as local communities with a voice, an analysis of our experience, and a solid grounding of what we deserve to live with dignity, respect and love as human beings.


1Love Testimony at Philadelphia City Council Hearing on CIR

Good morning Councilmembers. My name is Mia-lia Kiernan, I am a community organizer and co-founder of 1Love Movement. We were born out of a detention and deportation crisis in the Cambodian-American community here in Philly 2 ½ years ago. We are now a national network of grassroots Asian American organizers.

Thank you for having us here today to testify on the City Council Resolution on CIR at this crucial moment in political history. We thank you for your commitment to building strong relationships with community groups and allowing us to help shape the language of this document with you, and for having the courage and integrity to lead our stance on CIR with the concerns and analysis from communities here in Philly.

We are here in City Council today for Philadelphia to have a voice in the national move to pass CIR, but more importantly for Philadelphia to empower ourselves in a national effort that often loses the voices from the ground. Now is the time to be clear about what Comprehensive Immigration Reform means for us:

  • As the national effort says it’s fighting for the “best and the brightest”, we say that’s not enough. The reality is that our schools are struggling to stay open, our drop out rates are high and real, our teachers are overworked and underpaid, and therefore legalization should be extended to young people who strive in our broken education system for GED’s, vocational training and alternative education too.
  • As the national effort says it’s fighting to “keep families together”, we say that needs to be defined in a way that includes all of our families, regardless of immigration status, family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. We know family is family, period.
  • As the national effort says it’s fighting for enforcement and deportation of “criminal aliens”, we say that is a blanket term used to describe our young people who have become part of, not just a school-to-prison pipeline, but a school-to-deportation pipeline. We say that we believe in second chances and redemption in our communities, and oppose the retroactive deportation of people who have already completed their sentences and have since improved their lives.
  • As the national effort says it’s fighting for legalization of “agricultural workers”, we say we know deeply our country’s history of exploitation and division of workers, and any new worker visa program must guarantee with it fundamental rights, fairness and dignity to all workers no matter where they come from and no matter their occupation.

We have begun our job today by challenging the national effort to see us here on the ground, and challenging lawmakers to take our analysis into deep consideration.

We have challenged them to acknowledge the root causes of our forced migration, such as conditions created by destructive US foreign policies that have led to genocide, economic and human, conditions of war, conflict, trafficking and the economic devastation of entire nations.

We have challenged them to stop passing laws that divide our communities between those who are labeled as “deserving” and those who are not.

We have challenged them to acknowledge our country’s history of labor exploitation, discrimination and division, and urge reform that will not perpetuate our shameful past.

We have challenged them to see the links between all the systems at play that disempower people in America, and that economic decisions to close schools while building prisons are moral decisions that effect immigrant and non-immigrant families alike.

Our analysis is full and politically educated and strong, and we have our direct experiences and our hearts behind us here in Philadelphia. Our federal government will have to respond to its failures in law making as more and more local governments take a stand.

With that, we want to let you know that our courageous stance has empowered other cities to step out of the mainstream line of immigration reform as well. Through 1Love’s national network of allies and community groups, when this Resolution was introduced it was sent to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who were so inspired by the language of this document that they wish to adopt it as representative of their City’s stance on CIR after we do so here today.

It is perfectly ironic and so Philly of us to be having this hearing on Valentine’s Day in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. While the fight for immigration reform is about changing laws and policies that are unjust and inhumane, this movement itself is built on a foundation of love. Love of family, community, livelihood, dignity, and the future of our next generation. Thank you again for taking a stand with us, your leadership makes us proud and gives strength to our hearts, in the face of oppressive immigration and deportation systems that test them everyday. Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you and your loved ones.



MLK Day of Action 2013: VIDEO!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Action 2013
Building Leadership, Pride and Heart in Asian American Communities
WE recognize that we are being left behind and left out of decisions that affect our livelihood and our futures. Asian American movements in Philly have been born in response to crises in our education, deportation, prison and health systems. We’ve witnessed Asian immigrant students boycott South Philly High to protest unequal protection of their rights, Southeast Asian families organize against a system of deportation and incarceration that breaks families apart, and communities stand up against police harassment and abuse of power in their homes, on their blocks, and in their neighborhoods.
TO honor this Martin Luther King Day, Asian American leaders and organizers joined together to bring our campaign INSIDE our community. We defined, trained and strengthened an intergenerational and united rising leadership of Asian Americans in Philly. Together we learned lessons from Asian American movement history and developed our political knowledge of issues that affect us, so we can build strategy to move forward in this long haul fight for justice and dignity.
THEN we marched and rallied with our sisters and brothers from many struggles. While injustice leads us into paths of hate, division and isolation, the people of Philadelphia are building our power through unity and love at a time when we need each other more than ever. Throughout the years we have honored the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by standing together for our rights as people to all the things we need to live our lives with dignity. And we will continue to do so.
LOVE your sisters and brothers in struggle,
Organized by 1Love Movement, BPSOS-Delaware Valley, Asian Americans United, Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, Providence Youth Student Movement, Family Unity Network & Asian Student Association of Philadelphia


Originally posted on April 24, 2012 in response to the continuous silencing of our deportation experience in Southeast Asian communities.

A Statement from Southeast Asian American Community Groups

1Love Movement, Pennsylvania ~ Providence Youth Student Movement, Rhode Island ~ Khmer Girls in Action, California ~ Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association, Lousiana ~ CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, New York ~ Southeast Asian Resource Action Center, Washington DC

On November 1 2011, videos were submitted by community groups around the country for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) “What’s Your Story” Video challenge . Winners from the contest would have the opportunity to present their issue at the White House to White House Administration officials at an event called “Champions of Change” on April 5, 2012.

We were really excited to see Studio Revolt’s video on the issue of deportation in the Cambodian American community, My Asian Americana, be chosen for the final 11, because it meant we were being heard. It’s a video that speaks to the activism work of our community, challenges institutional oppression and unjust immigration policies, and shows the depth of our humanity.

The community and the country watched and voted, and “My Asian Americana” went viral and was viewed by thousands of people! We were thrilled. We knew a presentation at the White House would not solve the problem of deportation. But it would be a step in this long haul movement. However, Studio Revolt was not invited to the White House as one of the 9 out of 11 chosen groups, despite clear and massive public support. Our families, our communities, our pain, was silenced again.


We’re angry because our country was the target of secret and illegal US bombing during an unjust war in Southeast Asia…

Because the destruction of bombing led a genocidal dictatorship to rise and wipe out nearly a third of our people…

Because we lived with unknown futures in Thai refugee camps for years…

Because as refugees in the US, we were resettled in neighborhoods that didn’t accept us…

Because we suffer from PTSD & are given little access to mental health services…

Because our teachers have limited language services to communicate with our parents…

Because we are not given quality or equal education…

Because we are bullied & beat up by our peers who don’t understand us or our history…

Because we are labeled “gang members” and racially profiled because we stick together…

Because we feel the complex heartbreak of poor choices made with little guidance…

Because rehabilitated re-entry offers few avenues to work & support our families…

Because our loved ones are detained & mandatorily deported by ICE for past mistakes…

Because the prison industry is making billions separating our families & locking us up…

Because our loved ones are torn away from us & sent back to the country we once fled…

Because our families are struggling to make ends meet…

Because our country believes in second chances, but we don’t see them…

Because we are doubly punished…

Because our community is labeled “criminal aliens”…

We’re angry because our struggle is being silenced.

“My Asian Americana” gave the public and our government yet another opportunity to understand and acknowledge the unjust conditions in which we live, and the unjust policies that dehumanize us. But that opportunity wasn’t taken, because our government considers the issue of deportation for criminal convictions “too controversial”. Our community has been campaigning and building power around this issue since 2002, and we are continuously silenced. Our government, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), prefer to label us “criminal aliens”, “threats to society”, and use our community as a political scapegoat – instead of understanding the depth and complexity of our struggle, recognizing the severe due process and proportionality violations in the law, and the long term effects deportation will have on our communities and families for decades to come.


We call on our brothers and sisters all over the country to speak out to the White House, WHIAAPI, and members of the US Congress in solidarity against deportation of those who fall under the misused and politically exploited category of “Criminal Alien”, and advocate for Southeast Asian American families. We need to fight against the racist, classist, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee sentiment that affects all of us. We cannot allow politics to deter us from our unity as human beings and make us sacrifice one community over another.

We call on communities who are faced with school-to-prison pipeline, juvenile and criminal justice, racial profiling and re-entry issues to stand with us in this fight, because these are our experiences too. We call on communities fighting for immigrant rights to stop using “criminal” vs. “non-criminal” language in the immigration debate, as it plays into a system of language that oppresses and simplifies our stories, and divides immigrant communities.

Cambodian Americans who pledged allegiance to the flag, and are then retroactively torn away from the arms of their families for crimes they have already been punished for – is a reality for us EVERYDAY. We call on our communities to stand up and fight for what is ours – our rights, our homes, our families, our dignity – and march with love in our hearts and our fists in the air! We will not be silenced!

Please check out more from Studio Revolt here.

And the follow up video, Return to Sender – A Video Letter to the President, featuring testimonials and analysis of our brothers and sisters who have been deported to Cambodia. 1Love.

“CRIMINAL”: Think about who we lose when we say that.

Originally posted on August 24, 2011 in response to the Obama Administration’s announcement to prioritize “Criminal Aliens” for detention and deportation. 

“I entered the United States as an infant, made my mistakes as a juvenile and was punished for those mistakes as a young adult. And as I now embrace life as a reformed, working civilian and father, the actions of my past still haunt me with what my fate might be. I can only implore mercy from a system in which I trust forgiveness and second chances still exist.”

This was written by Chally Dang on December 4, 2010, while he was detained at York County Prison in Pennsylvania. After 253 days of detention he was deported to Cambodia, a country he fled as a child refugee. Now, as a 30 year old man, he is separated from his wife, four young children, his house, his job, and Philadelphia, the only place he calls home – all for a crime he committed when he was 15.

1Love Movement believes in a system that recognizes the value of family, the value of offering the best we can for our next generation, the value of learning from our mistakes, and the value inherent in the right of a child to grow up with their parents. We do not believe in a system that uses words like “illegal” and “criminal” to divide communities that are fighting for all of these values in unity. We do not believe in a system that divides us into categories of those who are deserving and those who are not.

We stand in solidarity with families around the country who find hope in the Obama Administration’s recent announcement. We are inspired by the heart and relentless defiance of our allies who have taken great risk to elevate issues that effect all of us. And we view this announcement as proof of the power we have to shift unjust policy in a humane direction.

However, we strongly urge caution moving forward. Genuine victory can only be achieved through reform that provides due process and human rights to all people in spite of their immigration or criminal history, and that puts family first. We are deeply saddened and alarmed by the blanket usage of language such as “criminal” that strips individuals of their humanity by classifying them as “threats to society” without taking into consideration their individual circumstances.

We call on the Obama administration to consider the flaws in the criminal justice system, the undeniable presence of racial profiling in law enforcement, societal failures that encourage juvenile delinquency, national economic instability, xenophobia, poverty, and the state of our public education system. We call on the Obama administration to consider the flaws in the immigration system, which orders people deported for misdemeanors and minor crimes, retroactive enforcement, mandatory detention, and lack of individualized review based on merit and character. We cannot simplify individuals who live through all of these contexts to one word – “criminal”, and are therefore expendable, without considering the implications for the next generation and the implications of how we choose to view people, particularly ex-offenders, in our society.

We view efforts to label immigrants as either criminal or non-criminal as dangerous and offensive – as it justifies, under the false premise of keeping our communities safe, the continual denial of human rights to people who will now be increasingly targeted for deportation under pre-existing and unjust law, and further supports a system of inequality that tears families apart in communities across the country.