Statement from Cambodian Deportees

Open Letter from Cambodian Deportees to Our Community in the United States

For Immediate Release by 1Love Cambodia, Phnom Penh: Thursday April 21, 2016

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Khmer New Year Southwest Temple, Philly: Photo by Jeff Lek, Planetary P

To Our Khmer-American Community,

Khmer New Year has just passed us. New Year is about unity, celebration, family, and community. It’s about having fun, being happy, eating, laughing, and throwing baby powder on each other. It’s about all the blessings, offerings, and honor we give to our ancestors and the struggles of the generations before us that gave us life today. And with that, from Cambodia, our deportee community wishes you all so much success, happiness and prosperity in this new year.

We are 1Love Cambodia. We are a group of Khmer-American deportees living in Cambodia who have been separated by deportation from our grandparents, parents, siblings, children, cousins, and families and communities as a whole. We were adopted children of war – refugees – to the US, resettled with a history of trauma into unjust systems and surroundings that led us to make mistakes that would forever label us “Criminal Aliens” by the US government and subject to permanent deportation. We are not perfect – we are human. We recognize the harm we have caused, and we live to amend that harm everyday because we believe in healing and accountability for our actions. We also believe in our human ability to change and be better people in the world for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

In this New Year we call upon you, our Khmer-American community, with great respect and humility, to re-commit to fighting for unity, change, and justice for all our families impacted by deportation. We know that many of you have fought for us since the 1996 US immigration laws passed, and since 2002 when the Cambodia-US Repatriation Agreement was signed and the separation of families in our community by deportation began. As deportees, we know the pain and trauma of this experience very deeply. And we know it brings us stress to fight against a system that seems unbreakable. As a deportee community, it has taken us over a decade of trying and failing, of believing and doubting, to finally come to this moment when we are able to trust our vision enough to stand up and fight, no matter the haters and the barriers, and throw down together to right this wrong that impacts our community as a whole.

We’re not just fighting for us over here. We are fighting for all of our Khmer people who have endured family separation and destruction too many times in one lifetime, from war and genocide to incarceration to deportation. We’re fighting for our spouses who are battling against all odds to live normal lives, we’re fighting for our children who are struggling to believe in a world that takes their parents away from them, we’re fighting for our parents and grandparents who want us to take care of them in their old age and pass them on to the next life with dignity and family unity. We’re fighting for all of our relatives, neighbors, and friends of all communities, who shouldn’t have to live with the reality of this injustice.

We believe that we as a people, as human beings, deserve more. And we know you all have been working hard to create a better tomorrow for our community in the US. What we ask of you, our people, is that while you continue to work towards a better future for our community – don’t forget about us. We know we are on the other side of the world – our morning is your night, and our night is your morning – but we are part of your community, we are part of your family. We are here, and we are living, surviving, and thriving with the same determination that made our refugee community thrive in a new land over 30 years ago. And we are fighting for what’s right. No matter the cost.

We have seen from a distance the political divisions in our community in the US. And we understand where it comes from, but we want to see our people unite as one and stick together to fight for what’s right, to fight for families to be together. To strengthen one another instead of beating each other down. We have to support, believe, and make a change for Khmer-American families, whether they are in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap, Lowell, Long Beach, Stockton, Philly, Seattle, or the Bronx. We are one community – and our fight is to keep families together, no matter where they are.

We are fighting for a revision to the Cambodia-US Repatriation Agreement that is just and fair, a revision that will end the breaking apart of refugee families, and that will be applied retroactively, so that those of us who have been deported already will have the right to return and support our families. We want a revision that will end deportation and displacement, and reunite families.

We are now in the Year of the Monkey. This is our year to be inventive, our year to remember, recall, and build on our knowledge, our year to be skillful and clever. This is our year to take risks, be fierce, and face our challenges together with wit and imagination – we believe in #RefugeeResilience, the #Right2Family, and the #Right2Return! Let our voices be heard together from Cambodia to the US!

To support this movement, we ask you to take some time and do a few things:

  • WATCH AND SHARE Sincerely Yours, a video made by 1Love Cambodia that details the family struggle of deportation from our perspective
  • WATCH AND SHARE SEAFN Campaign Launch Video, made by 1Love US that details the movement and strategy of revising the Cambodia-US Repatriation Agreement
  • SIGN UP for updates to stay tuned for how you can play your part in making this change happen for our community!

Sincerely Yours,

CHEA Sacramento, CA

SOPHEA Long Beach, CA

VOE Philadelphia, PA

SAMNANG Long Beach, CA

JOKE Long Beach, CA

STACIE Long Beach, CA

CHINA Long Beach, CA

WICCED San Diego, CA

SLIMM Long Beach, CA

THAI BOU Stockton, CA

MOUT Philadelphia, PA

PACKER Long Beach, CA

ZAR Modesto, CA

B Tacoma, WA

AB Sacramento, CA

KHAN Stockton, CA

BONX San Diego, CA

DETPOUN Boston, MA

VICHHEKA Stockton, CA

RY MAM Long Beach, CA

BORA Modesto, CA

BUCK Philadelphia, PA

SAMBO Tacoma, WA

SPADE Stockton, CA

BUNTEANG CHAY Fresno, CA

KAY-KAY Long Beach, CA

SHHORT Bowling Green, KY

SOKUSH Modesto, CA

CAM Lowell, MA

FISH Philadelphia, PA

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SEAFN Campaign Series: VIDEO 2 Our Resettlement

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Please watch our 2nd installment of the SEAFN Campaign Video Series below. Video 2: Our Resettlement continues our Southeast Asian American story from Video 1, looking deeper at our resettlement process in the US. As our communities tried to take root in the US, we faced violence in new and unexpected ways – both external and internal to our communities. SEAFN Campaign Series: VIDEO 2 Our Resettlement focuses on our refugee resettlement experience in the US, and our community’s experience of trauma and resilience in systems of criminalization, incarceration, and deportation.

VIDEO 2 CALL TO ACTION! 

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW!

  • DONATE to support the SEAFN Campaign trip to Southeast Asia to build movement beyond borders with our deported community.
  • SEND us to Southeast Asia with a message of love and support to our deported sisters, brothers, family and community in Southeast Asia

And finally, in response to the Call To Action released with SEAFN Campaign Series: VIDEO 1 Our Survival on November 21st 2015, we launched our SEAFN CAMPAIGN SOLIDARITY LETTER to get support from organizations, groups, businesses and affiliations. Within just 1 month, the SEAFN Campaign was endorsed by almost 200 groups across the US and Southeast Asia. This show of support is incredible! SIGN ON HERE!

 

SEAFN Campaign Series: VIDEO 1 Our History, Our Survival

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They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.

Mexican Proverb

This year, 2015, marks 40 years since the first Southeast Asian refugees began being resettled in the US after more than two decades of US wars in the region. As we reflect on our displacement 40 years ago, we reckon with continuing displacement today in the form of US deportation. To end the cycle of displacement in our generation, we have to start from the beginning and ask ourselves: Where did we come from? And why are we here in the first place?

To start answering these questions, we released VIDEO 1: Our History, Our Survival on November 21st to begin our SEAFN Campaign Series following the release of our SEAFN Campaign Launch Video on October 24th. This series will engage community to organize and take action in our campaign to end deportation and displacement, and reunite families. The stories, struggles, and visions of our community will build a grounded and deeper narrative of the Southeast Asian experience. The videos will be released on the third Saturday of every month till April 2016.

SEAFN CAMPAIGN SERIES

  • Saturday October 24th – CAMPAIGN LAUNCH VIDEO
  • Saturday November 21st – VIDEO 1: Our History, Our Survival
  • Saturday December 19th – VIDEO 2: Our Resettlement
  • Saturday January 16th – VIDEO 3: Deportation
  • Saturday February 20th – VIDEO 4: Deportee Community
  • Saturday March 19th – VIDEO 5: Our Fight
  • Saturday April 16th – VIDEO 6: Our Future

VIDEO 1: CALL TO ACTION!

We call on our family, friends, & allies to sign on to this SEAFN CAMPAIGN SOLIDARITY LETTER, & let us know how you can commit to supporting this movement to end deportation & displacement, & reunite families. SIGN TODAY!

SEAFN CAMPAIGN IN NBC NEWS!

Forty Years After Resettlement, Thousands of Southeast Asian Refugees Face DeportationJustine Calma NBC News
“How many times in one lifetime can you be displaced?” ~Mia-lia Boua Kiernan, 1Love

See below the link to VIDEO 1: Our History, Our Survival and feel free to use this Info Sheet if you organize a viewing with family, friends or colleagues.

Press Conference: Shame on Mayor Nutter for Breaking Promise of NO MORE ICE DETAINERS

11.16.2015-Press Conference Nutter Push Back

Good Morning. Our names are Mia-lia and Nancy, and we work with 1Love Movement, a Cambodian and Southeast Asian organization that addresses incarceration and deportation issues in our community. We stand with our Philadelphia Family Unity Network partners, and all of our allies and networks around the City and across the country as we say that we stand against the Mayor’s plans to undo the groundbreaking Executive Order he signed in 2014 to end the use of ICE detainers and any City communication with ICE through our jails. The national hate rhetoric and scapegoating has infiltrated our City, and has our City leadership back on a message that labels our community members “criminal aliens” deserving of double jeopardy, double punishment, and the life sentence of permanent deportation. This is deeply disturbing because the Philadelphia community holds a community-based vision of safety, healing, and justice. We are called by a shared belief that our community’s healing comes from addressing the root causes of violence, that we need to end the criminalization of our communities and that all people, regardless of immigration status or criminal conviction should remain with their chosen communities. While we hold people accountable to their actions and crimes, we recognize that violence stems from trauma, from poverty caused by devastating economic policies, war, forced migration, systematically segregated and underfunded communities, racist immigration policies, and a criminal justice system that separates and destroys families and communities.

As we find ourselves back here again today, demanding our human dignity, values of family togetherness, second chances, transformative justice, community accountability, and healing – we are reminded that we won this before against all odds and we will win this again. Philadelphia sparked a fire in communities across the country, and we won’t let that fire die out now in the 11th hour. In a City that established a Mayor’s Office on Re-Entry, a City that Banned the Box, a City that is committing to decreasing the number of community members in the prison system by at least 40%, we know that the incentive for rolling back this just policy isn’t coming from us – it’s coming from outside our City. We need to stand strong for our policies that reflect our values as a society, that honor our community’s dignity, that respects the diversity of our lives, and are grounded in the belief of redemption.

Who: The Philadelphia Family Unity Network, The Shut Down Berks Coalition, Immigrant leaders, Advocates, Community Organizations, Lawyers and Religious Leaders
What: Press Conference
When: Monday, November 16th, 11am
Where: North side of City Hall, Philadelphia

More information:
http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20151113_Nutter_considers_rolling_back_Phila__s__quot_sanctuary_city_quot__program.html

WE ARE READY! Are you?!

SEAFN National Campaign Launch Day: October 24th, 2015

SEAFN National Campaign Launch Day: October 24th, 2015

On October 24th, 2015 the Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) successfully launched our campaign to end deportation and displacement, and reunite families. Southeast Asian American communities organized gatherings in 14 cities across the country, and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to view the new campaign launch video and strategize our next steps forward!

WHERE WE’VE BEEN

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Our SEAFN organizations,  along with many community and advocacy groups, have been relentlessly fighting deportation for over a decade through community storytelling and media, policy advocacy, leadership and political education, and coalition building. Although we have all made impact at the federal, state and local levels, our community continues to be targeted for deportation and family separation. But the most powerful result of our collective work over the years has been the building of a national network of Southeast Asian American leadership grounded in the humility of learning from our past, and inspired by love and belief in what is possible if we stand together today. We are trained through our own lived experience and community movement, we’re ready, we throw down for each other, and we will not give up.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

MeyMeme

After all these years of building, strengthening, advocating and organizing, we are at a watershed moment for the Southeast Asian American community. 2015 marks 40 years since Southeast Asian refugees began being resettled in the US. This year, SEAFN launches a new strategy and a collective campaign that calls our attention and organizing to the Repatriation Agreements between the US and our home countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. It is in this year that SEAFN calls for us to UNITE as a Southeast Asian American community to demand an end to further displacement of our people by deportation.

WHERE WE’RE GOING

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As SEAFN, we stand united as passionate, loving, and committed organizations in our communities. We hold a vision bigger than all of us: A vision of our communities organized for justice and love to protect our human rights and live together with dignity for generations to come. As we enter this turning point for our communities, we believe with our whole hearts that we have a responsibility to our ancestors, an obligation to our elders, a pact to those lost in the streets and in the system, and a promise to our young people, to end our community’s intergenerational battle with displacement in all its forms.

HOW WE GET THERE

As the member organization of SEAFN focused on deportation, 1Love shares these principles we’ve learned along the way to guide us in this campaign:

  • We HONOR the sacrifice & movement history of those who came before us
  • We BELIEVE in the power of our community & grassroots organizing
  • We RESPECT the struggle & leadership of most impacted communities
  • We STRIVE to lead & act with love, vision, humility, understanding, & possibility
  • We COMMIT to doing the hard & continuous work of challenging ourselves to unite towards a common goal
  • We UNDERSTAND that our struggles are connected to the struggles of other communities, & we commit to stand in solidarity

If you’re with all this, then lets move! WE ARE READY! Are you?!

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW!

  1. WATCH and share the new campaign launch video below
  2. SHARE this blog post with your networks
  3. SIGN-UP for campaign updates
  4. DONATE to the campaign

The US is currently deporting up to 10 of our community members to Cambodia each month. If you, or someone close to you, is facing deportation, our partners at Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) have released this guide to support individuals and families impacted by deportation. Please use, and share with your networks: Resource Guide for Southeast Asian Americans Facing Criminal Deportation

Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) is a national collective of grassroots organizations working towards radical and transformational change led by those most impacted by systemic injustice. Member Organizations: 1Love Movement, Freedom Inc, Mekong NYC, Providence Youth Student Movement, VAYLA New Orleans, ManForward.