Press Release: Southeast Asian American Community Statement

Southeast Asian American Community Releases Principles on Deportation and Immigration Reform

April 11, 2013 Washington, DC – Today, 20 organizations representing immigrant and refugee communities from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Bhutan, and Burma called on Congress to pass immigration reform that unites families and addresses the root causes of inequity and disparity impacting immigrant communities in the United States. The organizations released a collective statement of principles and legislative stances as a roadmap for Congress to address deportation and other issues important to the Southeast Asian American community.

“The voices of Southeast Asian American families that are being broken apart by deportation are not being heard in the current immigration reform debate,” said Mia-lia Kiernan, co-founder and organizer of 1Love Movement. “To address the experiences of our communities, we need to fix not only our immigration system, but also our broken education and criminal justice systems. Deportation threatens the emotional and economic survival of our communities, and although we know that this is a long-term fight, we will never stop working to keep families together.”

Since 1998, over 13,000 Americans of Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese descent have been ordered removed from the United States. In most of these cases, individuals came to the U.S. as infants and young children, fleeing the conflicts in Southeast Asia as refugees with their families. Deportation in these and other immigrant communities soared after 1996, when Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which made many people subject to mandatory and permanent deportation for prior interactions with the criminal justice and prison systems.

Doua Thor, executive director of SEARAC, said, “The 1996 laws call for mandatory deportation, do not allow judges discretion to look at an individual’s circumstances, and punishes people for mistakes they made before the laws even existed. These unjust policies have swept up too many of our community members and punished immigrant communities for long enough. We will work with Congress to find solutions that help families, not tear them apart.”

The statement acknowledges the war and trauma experienced by Southeast Asian American refugees, and it identifies deportation as an act of violent separation. Additionally, the statement calls for greater investment in education, prioritizes rehabilitation and community healing, and emphasizes keeping families together. The statement also puts forth legislative stances to give judges discretion in all deportation cases, to end retroactive punishment, and to keep families together and allow a fair pathway for reunification. To read the full statement, click here

Organized by 1Love Movement and SEARAC

Signed by the following organizations:

Bhutanese Association of Georgia, GA

Bhutanese Community of Houston, TX

BPSOS Delaware Valley, PA/NJ

Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, PA

Empower Laotians for Advancement, CA

Family Unity Network of Lowell, MA

Freedom, Inc., WI

Hmong National Development, Inc., DC

Hmong Women’s Heritage Association, CA

Karen American Communities Foundation, DC

Khmer Girls in Action, CA

Laotian American National Alliance, DC

Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, MN

Providence Youth Student Movement, RI

SOY Shades of Yellow, MN

Stone Soup Fresno, CA

Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations, CA

Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans, LA

 To sign on as an organization, or for more information, please contact mialiabk@gmail.com or panghoua@searac.org.

 To sign on in solidarity as an individual, please do so here!

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1Love Movement is a national network of grassroots Asian American organizers who build power in their communities through leadership development, political education, coalition building, community organizing, and policy advocacy. 1Love Movement builds local capacity so that voices on the ground can be heard with authority and strength at the national level, and so that all people and their families can live together with dignity.

The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) is a national organization that advances the interests of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans by empowering communities through advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building to create a socially just and equitable society. Find out more at www.searac.org.

Southeast Asian American Community Statement on Deportation & Immigration Reform

As immigration reform progresses rapidly we, the undersigned organizations, are unified in our stance to support true reform that focuses on uniting families and addresses the deep root causes of inequity and disparity in this country. While we recognize that we may not achieve everything all at once, we are committed for the long term. (Link to sign on as an individual here!)

 Our Points of Unity

ROOT CAUSES OF OUR MIGRATION:

We recognize that the root causes of our forced migration are conditions created by destructive U.S. foreign policies and militarism, which led to genocide, war, conflict, trafficking, refugee resettlement, economic and environmental devastation, and the political instability of our home countries.

ACKNOWLEDGING OUR TRAUMA:

We recognize that the trauma of our experiences and dispassionate social and economic systems have caused severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in our communities, and healthcare support structures must be built to address the emotional well-being of our people and families.

EDUCATION INVESTMENT NOT INCARCERATION:

We recognize there is massive divestment in the education of our young people, and the lack of student-centered approaches to education have led to high rates of push-out in our communities. We recognize that structures of incarceration exacerbate our struggle out of poverty and lead many on a path to criminality, prison, and institutionalized punishment.

REHABILITATION AND COMMUNITY HEALING:

We believe in Second Chances and our human ability to change. We believe in rehabilitation, redemption, and forgiveness. We prioritize community and victim-led processes of healing over a system of vengeance, institutionalized punishment, and criminalization. We believe in meaningful re-entry services that re-build people and communities.

DEPORTATION IS AN ACT OF VIOLENCE:

We believe deportation is an act of violence against people, families, and communities. We see the breaking apart of families and the removal of people from our communities as an institutionalized process that threatens the emotional and economic survival of our families and our futures. We believe in the right of ALL families to stay together, regardless of immigration status, family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

TRUE SECURITY OF OUR COMMUNITIES PUTS FAMILIES FIRST:

We believe that in order to ensure the true security of our communities for generations to come, we need to end practices of political scapegoating, division, labeling, dehumanization, and minimizing of our complex experiences. We believe we need compassionate, representative, and accountable leadership that will advocate for family, dignity, self-determination, equality, fairness, respect, and unified communities.

IMMIGRATION REFORM SHOULD UNITE FAMILIES:

We stand in solidarity with our allies, and support reform that allows for legalization, family reunification, and treating all people humanely.

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 Our Legislative Stances

REINSTATE JUDICIAL DISCRETION:

End mandatory deportation and detention. Everyone deserves to tell their story before a judge, and judges should have the right to consider a person’s individual circumstances.

END MANDATORY DETENTION AND DEPORTATION:

Allow individuals with criminal histories to challenge their detention and deportation before a judge, and expand the use of community-based alternatives to detention.

NARROW THE DEFINITION OF AGGRAVATED FELONY:

Revise the definition of “aggravated felony” under immigration law so that fewer individuals are swept into the deportation process after they have already served their time.

END RETROACTIVE PUNISHMENT:

Individuals should not be subject to policies that reach back to punish people for incidents that happened before those policies were established.

KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER:

Family is the core of our communities. Immigration policy should prioritize keeping families together, and provide fair and just avenues for reunification, even after deportation has already occurred.

Organized by 1Love Movement & Southeast Asia Resource Action Center

Signed by the following organizations:

Bhutanese Association of Georgia, GA

Bhutanese Community of Houston, TX

BPSOS Delaware Valley, PA/NJ

Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, PA

Empower Laotians for Advancement, CA

Family Unity Network of Lowell, MA

Freedom, Inc., WI

Hmong National Development, Inc., DC

Hmong Women’s Heritage Association, CA

Karen American Communities Foundation, DC

Khmer Girls in Action, CA

Laotian American National Alliance, Inc., DC

Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, MN

Providence Youth Student Movement, RI

SOY Shades of Yellow, MN

Stone Soup Fresno, CA

Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations, CA

Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans, LA

To sign on as an organization, or for more information, please contact us at 1lovemovement2010@gmail.com

Photo: May Day March, 2006, Providence, PrYSM