After weeks and months of organizing by immigration rights groups, sexual assault victims’ rights groups, and social media users, rape and assault survivor Ny Nourn has been freed from ICE detention and is out on bail.
The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) reports that over one hundred Cambodian American refugees have been arrested and detained for deportation after one of the largest Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) mass round-up operations in history.
The arrests come shortly after the Cambodian government announced over the summer that they would temporarily halt the issuing of travel visas for refugees facing deportation by the US government to Cambodia. Cambodian officials are seeking renegotiation of a 2002 U.S.-Cambodia agreement to address the separation of deported refugees from the American families.
Ny Nourn was born into war and violence.
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.
Last week, war veterans, mothers, fathers, family, friends, and children held signs of pleas to stop deportations of their loved ones.
Organized by family members of those detained, and supported by a coalition of API advocacy organizations, people lined the streets of Minneapolis outside Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office to demand justice after almost a dozen Cambodian Minnesotans were detained for deportation. This isn’t solely in the Cambodian community. Just last year, the story of Lao American DJ Teace aka Thisaphone Sothiphakhak was in the Minneapolis City Pages.
“That’s the most frustrating feeling,” said Sothiphakhak at the time. “I went through the court system, and literally something 18 years ago came back and made me feel like I was less than human.”
Many outside the adoptee community are surprised when they learn that this country can and will deport international adoptees. Yet, that is exactly what could happen — and has already been happening — for an untold number of adult adoptees.
The US government reports that there have been approximately 250,000 international adoptions recorded in the past 15 years, most adopted before the age of 2. For most of the late twentieth century, the vast majority of these infants were adopted from South Korea; this trend began after the Korean War left many children orphaned. Today, China has overtaken Korea as the most popular country within which prospective parents seek to adopt: nearly one-third of international adoptions involve children born in China. Thus, America’s international adoptees are predominantly Asian American, and the political issues faced by this community deserve our attention and our advocacy.
Most Americans — including many prospective adoptive parents — assume that international adoptees acquire automatic US citizenship with the completion of adoption paperwork. That is simply untrue. The citizenship of international adoptees is dependent upon whether or not their American citizen parents have separately sponsored their petition for US citizenship, even after adoptees have already begun life in America.