Activists tell me that Nan-Hui Jo — the Korean survivor of domestic abuse who fled her abuser with her young daughter only to be arrested last year when she reentered the United States on a tourist visa and charged with child abduction — was released from federal detention pending possible deportation. After her first trial ended in a mistrial, Jo was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to time served, but was then immediately taken into ICE custody pending possible deportation.
Korean American community activists and women’s rights workers joined forces over the last year, working tirelessly to deman Nan-Hui Jo’s release and restored access to her daughter, who is currently under full custody of her father and Jo’s abuser.
Thanks in no small part to those efforts, Nan-Hui Jo was released from ICE custody last Friday, her supporters announced this morning. She is scheduled to deliver a public statement next Wednesday morning on July 27th.
We celebrate Nan-Hui’s release from jail as an incredible, critical victory following nearly one year of incarceration. We know, however, that the struggle is not over. She still needs to rebuild her relationship with her daughter, who hasn’t seen her mother since July 29, 2014. Despite her release from detention, she is still fighting deportation in upcoming immigration hearings. She is still challenging her unjust criminal conviction for child abduction, which resulted from the actions she had taken to protect herself and her child.
Nan-Hui’s release is just one step towards justice in a context of overwhelming personal and institutional violence and trauma: lengthy and undue detainment and forced separation between mother and child; an aggressive and racist prosecution from the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office; and the threat of deportation and permanent separation from her daughter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement in spite of laws meant to provide survivors with immigration relief. It is critical for us to see that these multiple abuses all stemmed from domestic violence: the violence itself, the enormous ignorance surrounding it and the complete failure to recognize and support survivors in their right to self defense and to protect their children. We live in a society where survivors are blamed and judged for staying in abusive relationships, yet, as in Nan-Hui’s case, are also unduly punished when they leave.
We believe that all domestic violence survivors deserve safety, dignity, and freedom, regardless of immigration status or criminal record. Criminalization, incarceration and deportation are not solutions for violence, and usually retraumatize both survivors and their children. Nan-Hui’s story shines a light on how the systems that say they help create safety and justice can instead further abuse, criminalize survivors, and become another mechanism that batterers leverage to control and punish survivors in the long-term. When a survivor’s actions to protect herself and her child are criminalized, we see great violence and injustice. This is particularly true for women of color. The recent cases of Nan-Hui Jo and Marissa Alexander are but two tragic examples of this. We know that most stories like this go unheard.
As Nan-Hui works towards rebuilding her relationship with her daughter, Stand With Nan-Hui hopes to continue supporting her until mother and child are fully free. While we celebrate this moment, we know that there is still so much work to do to change the systems that produced this situation to begin with.
Supporters are invited to continue supporting Nan-Hui Jo with donations and awareness efforts as she works towards reconnecting with her daughter. Supporters are also encouraged to stay involved as Nan-Hui Jo is only one of many women of colour and immigrant women survivors of domestic abuse who remain particularly vulnerable to miscarriages of justice by the immigration and criminal justice systems.