This past week, Asian American scholars and activists (organized under the group, AAPIVoices) staged a nationwide week of action (#AAPIAction) around topics of immigration justice and the future of Asian American & Pacific Islander political organizing. Compelled by recent assaults on immigrant rights and the Muslim community by the Trump administration, advocacy groups across the country hosted events — including many held on college and university campuses — to promote AAPI political activism around social justice issues.
On event associated with #AAPIAction was hosted at the University of Maryland last Monday. While participants sought to raise the profile of Asian Americans in opposing the rescinding of DACA and anti-immigrant policies, the gathering at UMD was part of a larger effort among coalition partners, including a diverse group of student organizations, staff and faculty to stand up for immigrants, counter xenophobia, and recognize Indigenous People’s Day. At the event, nearly a hundred students gathered around a statue of writer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass — situated outside the campus’ R. Lee Hornbake Library — to protest in support of documented and undocumented immigrants, and against the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to pass a Muslim travel ban. During the event, several students took to the base of the statue to share their perspectives on immigration justice and other social justice issues.
Nourn’s mother fled genocide in Cambodia to a refugee camp in Thailand where she gave birth to Nourn. Nourn was just 5 years old when her mother immigrated with her to the United States and married Nourn’s stepfather, whose abusive behaviour against both mother and child motivated Nourn’s mother to enact her own verbal abuse against Nourn, as well.
Nourn grew up knowing no other kind of relationship but abuse, pain, and violence.
Nourn was just 17 years old when she met 34-year-old Ron Barker, the man who would be her boyfriend, and eventually her abuser and rapist. She was just 18 years old when Barker, jealous of her affair with another man, coerced her with physical assault, rape, and death threats to lure her lover into a trap and to stay silent after he shot and killed the other man, and burned the body so badly that dental records would be needed to identify the victim.
Nourn was just 21 years old when she chose to break her silence and tell police of the crime. She was arrested on the spot and charged with murder.
Nourn was still just 21 years old when a jury sentenced her — a survivor of domestic violence and rape — to a 15-years-to-life prison sentence for second degree murder in failing to prevent her abuser from shooting and killing another man. Nourn served 16 years in prison before receiving parole.
But her freedom was short-lived. Immediately upon her release from Central California Women’s Facility earlier this year, she was taken into custody by US Immigration and imprisoned in the Yuba County Jail, an ICE detention facility built to hold immigrants facing deportation.
Now, Nourn faces deportation to Cambodia, a country she does not know. She is 36 years old.
Earlier this year, I reported on the hate crime murder of 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an engineer shot and killed at a bar in Olathe, Kansas by a man who yelled “Get out of my country!” moments before pulling the trigger. The shooting left Kuchibhotla dead and his co-worker — with whom he was enjoying happy hour drinks — critically injured; a third bystander who attempted to stop the crime, was also hurt.
Afterwards, the killer — 51-year-old Adam Purinton — fled the scene of the crime and was later apprehended nearly 70 miles south at an Applebee’s, where Purinton had boasted of killing two Iranians. After he was arrested, Purinton faced federal hate crime charges; he currently awaits trial on those charges.
Heartbreakingly, Purinton didn’t just take the life of Srinivas Kuchibhotla that night in February; the shooting also placed Kuchibhotla’s widow — Sunayana Dumala — at risk of deportation. Dumala, who was born in India, worked as a developer for InTouch Solutions; however, her residency status was linked to her husband’s H-1B visa. When Kuchibhotla was murdered in February, Dumala’s residency permit was terminated and she became at risk of deportation.
Asian American advocacy group, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), is currently one week into a marathon 22-day vigil in front of the White House. Activists with NAKASEC are protesting Republican efforts to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) programs, two programs that grant protection from deportation and offers work authorization to certain undocumented immigrants.
DACA was implemented in 2012 as a program to provide protection for undocumented immigrants who are current (or recently graduated) students, who have no criminal history, and who who were brought to the United States as young children. Undocumented immigrants registered under DACA — known colloquially as Dreamers — were raised knowing only America as their home. Yet, without deportation protection, they are at-risk of being detained and removed by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to a totally unfamiliar country. TPS is a program that provides deportation relief for undocumented immigrants whose lives would be at risk due to war or environmental catastrophe if they were returned to their countries of origin; currently, TPS covers undocumented immigrants from El Savador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Khizr Khan, the Pakistani American and Muslim father of US Army Captain Humayun Khan who was killed in 2004 while deployed during the Iraq War, says he has been forced to cancel a scheduled speaking engagement in Canada after learning that his “traveling privileges are being reviewed.”