Testimony: Nancy Nguyen

Philadelphia City Council | Hearing: Police and ICE Collaboration | 3/12/2014

My name is Nancy Nguyen and I am currently leading BPSOS-Delaware Valley, a community-based organization which for the past 13 years has provided services, and advocated and organized with Vietnamese American immigrant and refugees in Philadelphia and South Jersey. I join the dozens of voices today, representing a myriad of communities to impart on you, the urgency of our need to end all ICE detainers in Philadelphia.

End ALL ICE detainers in Philadelphia. They pose an unnecessary, immediate and lasting threat to our communities and in particular, to our youth.

This is a story that many of you will remember: on December 3rd, 2009 nearly 30 Asian immigrant students were attacked by their peers at South Philadelphia High School. That struggle became national news. In the immediate aftermath of that biased violence, there was a clear failure on the part of the school and school district administration to address the violence. The families of the students weren’t reached out to – no phone calls, no letters, no conversations about what had happened to their children.

In the face of this absolute absence of responsibility, these students had few choices. Some considered returning to school in silence – which is what they were asked to do by the principal, with empty promises towards their “safety”. And some wanted to return to school with vengeance.

However, the seeds of change had been planted. With the support of youth and community organizers, many of whom are in this room, they turned to a third choice – to catalyze their fear, anger, pain, hurt into a non-violent protest of their conditions. They boycotted the school and demanded that the School District make our schools safe for all students.

In the ensuing weeks, months and years, Asian and Southeast Asian immigrant and refugee adults came out to support these youth in our rallies and our protests; adults who as youth had faced the same issues of relentless biased violence, and a School District that refused to take responsibility. These adults were essentially facing the younger versions of themselves. Except that in their day – in the 80s and 90s – there were no organizations, mentors, or youth organizers to present this choice to them. So many dropped out of school to avoid the violence; or they fought back. In fighting back, they were labeled as aggressors and criminalized, and went through the School-to-Prison Pipeline, like many youth of color. And decades later, many of them would see their experience as immigrant and refugee youth as the School-to-Deportation Pipeline.

A generation later we understand the long term effects of unjust policies like zero tolerance, ICE detainers, mass incarceration and deportation – we are now seeing how this web of policies can trap youth forever, and into their adulthood. The truth is: Whether or not the school-to-deportation pipeline takes 20 years or 3 months to complete its run, the end result is the same: families shattered and community members taken without due process.

We stand here with long view of history – we cannot stand for another generation of immigrant and refugee youth to be caught in these unfair and unjust policies. All policies are written statements of how we want to live in our cities, and our communities. Mayor of Philadelphia, City Council Members and other leaders: we come to you with a vision for our policies to be written with the goal to keep families and communities together. The first step is to end all ICE detainers in Philadelphia. Thank you.

2 thoughts on “Testimony: Nancy Nguyen

  1. Pingback: PFUN Rocks! | 1Love Movement

  2. You made great links to the broader issues (deportation is another kind of prison for those who are its victims) and to the intergenerational aspect of this struggle! Awesome work.

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