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.
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.
This post has been updated. Please click through the jump for more information.
An hour ago, the judge in Nan-Hui Jo’s child abduction case rejected the motion to dismiss the guilty verdict against her, and sentenced Jo to 175 days of jail (counted as time served) and three years probation. A jury found Jo guilty of child abduction last month — despite errors in jury instructions highlighted by Jo’s defense in their motion — after Jo fled an abusive relationship she believed endangered both herself and her child and (because she lacked documentation to remain in the United States) returned to Korea.
Jo’s conviction on the child abduction charges now stand (and likely await an appeal) which significantly complicates her fight to regain custody of her six-year-old daughter, who is currently being cared for by Jo’s abuser, the child’s father. Meanwhile, because Jo is not a U.S. citizen, ICE placed a deportation hold on her. After her sentencing today, Jo was transferred to ICE custody and is being detained in an ICE facility pending a decision on deportation.
With this move, Nan-Hui Jo is likely to become one of the thousands of immigrant parents separated from their families by ICE deportation.
This is a devastating setback for Nan-Hui Jo and her supporters. The community is urged to contact ICE Sacramento, and to tweet @icegov and @customsborder and urge them to drop the deportation proceedings.
Supporters are currently awaiting Jo as she as processed out of county jail and released to ICE.
This post will be updated with details as they emerge.
Earlier this year, Jo was retried on charges that she kidnapped her daughter — her first trial ended in a hung jury. Jo’s abuser, who is her daughter’s father, claims that Jo’s escape to Korea violated his parental access. Yet, at the time of Jo’s departure, she was facing loss of legal immigration status and was facing deportation. Jo’s abuser, Jesse Charlton — an Iraq war veteran — confessed that at the time he was unemployed, emotionally unstable due to largely untreated PTSD and substance abuse, and was not prepared to assume full-time custody of their daughter. Facing the possibility that she would become an undocumented immigrant (and therefore unable to obtain work) and fearing for her and her daughter’s safety if they remained within Charlton’s influence, Nan-Hui Jo did what conservatives dream of: she “self-deported” with her child.
You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. In many ways, our stories are different. I am ethnically Chinese, not Korean. My first language is English. I have not (yet) been married. I am not (yet) a mother.
But in many ways, our stories are similar. Like you, I am an immigrant and an Asian American woman. Like you, I’ve had to navigate the complex web of U.S. immigration law just to maintain my life here, and like you, I’ve felt the fear that comes with the possibility of falling out of status. Like you, I’ve lain awake at night terrified that I have run out of options; that I am trapped; that there’s nobody who will help, or will even understand what’s happening.
I can only imagine how much harder trying to survive U.S. immigration law would be when also a survivor of domestic violence. As immigrants and women of colour and with already so few options available, I can only imagine what it’s like to have the possibilities further limited by having to secure not only your own physical safety, but also the physical safety of your child.
They say that domestic abuse is about exerting power. I think it is about weaponizing fear.