A Call to Action from Southeast Asian American Community Groups
via One Love Movement, A Statement from Southeast Asian American Community Groups
On November 1 2011, videos were submitted by community groups around the country for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) “What’s Your Story” Video challenge . Winners from the contest would have the opportunity to present their issue at the White House to White House Administration officials at an event called “Champions of Change” on April 5, 2012.
We were really excited to see Studio Revolt’s video on the issue of deportation in the Cambodian American community, My Asian Americana, be chosen for the final 11, because it meant we were being heard. It’s a video that speaks to the activism work of our community, challenges institutional oppression and unjust immigration policies, and shows the depth of our humanity.
The community and the country watched and voted, and “My Asian Americana” went viral and was viewed by thousands of people! We were thrilled. We knew a presentation at the White House would not solve the problem of deportation. But it would be a step in this long haul movement. However, Studio Revolt was not invited to the White House as one of the 9 out of 11 chosen groups, despite clear and massive public support. Our families, our communities, our pain, was silenced again.
THIS IS WHY WE’RE ANGRY
We’re angry because our country was the target of secret and illegal US bombing during an unjust war in Southeast Asia.
…because the destruction of bombing led a genocidal dictatorship to rise and wipe out nearly a third of our people.
…because we lived with unknown futures in Thai refugee camps for years.
…because as refugees in the US, we were resettled in neighborhoods that didn’t accept us.
…because we suffer from PTSD & are given little access to mental health services.
…because our teachers have limited language services to communicate with our parents.
…because we are not given quality or equal education.
…because we are bullied & beat up by our peers who don’t understand us or our history.
…because we are labeled “gang members” and racially profiled because we stick together.
…because we feel the complex heartbreak of poor choices made with little guidance.
…because rehabilitated re-entry offers few avenues to work & support our families.
…because our loved ones are detained & mandatorily deported by ICE for past mistakes.
…because the prison industry is making billions separating our families & locking us up.
…because our loved ones are torn away from us & sent back to the country we once fled.
…because our families are struggling to make ends meet.
…because our country believes in second chances, but we don’t see them.
…because we are doubly punished.
…because our community is labeled “criminal aliens.”
We’re angry because our struggle is being silenced.
“My Asian Americana” gave the public and our government yet another opportunity to understand and acknowledge the unjust conditions in which we live, and the unjust policies that dehumanize us. But that opportunity wasn’t taken, because our government considers the issue of deportation for criminal convictions “too controversial”. Our community has been campaigning and building power around this issue since 2002, and we are continuously silenced. Our government, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), prefer to label us “criminal aliens”, “threats to society”, and use our community as a political scapegoat – instead of understanding the depth and complexity of our struggle, recognizing the severe due process and proportionality violations in the law, and the long term effects deportation will have on our communities and families for decades to come.
THIS IS OUR CALL
We call on our brothers and sisters all over the country to speak out to the White House, WHIAAPI, and members of the US Congress in solidarity against deportation of those who fall under the misused and politically exploited category of “Criminal Alien”, and advocate for Southeast Asian American families. We need to fight against the racist, classist, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee sentiment that affects all of us. We cannot allow politics to deter us from our unity as human beings and make us sacrifice one community over another.
We call on communities who are faced with school-to-prison pipeline, juvenile and criminal justice, racial profiling and re-entry issues to stand with us in this fight, because these are our experiences too. We call on communities fighting for immigrant rights to stop using “criminal” vs. “non-criminal” language in the immigration debate, as it plays into a system of language that oppresses and simplifies our stories, and divides immigrant communities.
Cambodian Americans who pledged allegiance to the flag, and are then retroactively torn away from the arms of their families for crimes they have already been punished for – is a reality for us EVERYDAY. We call on our communities to stand up and fight for what is ours – our rights, our homes, our families, our dignity – and march with love in our hearts and our fists in the air! We will not be silenced!
Here are steps you can take to get involved:
- Organize a community screening of Studio Revolt’s My Asian Americana and Return to Sender in your home or other space. Discuss the issue and brainstorm how you can organize your community together. And continue to follow the work of Studio Revolt.
- Write a statement against unjust and retroactive deportation for past criminal convictions, the silencing of this issue, and ICE and DHS’s destructive policies that rip families apart. Send it to the White House, WHIAAPI, and your US Congressional members. You can find out who they are at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov. Send us a copy and we’ll post your letters on One Love Movement’s website: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Become more educated on this issue and spread the tools to others. See Deported Diaspora’s Resources and Links, One Love’s Know The Issue, and Families For Freedom’s Community Organizing Manual Deportation 101.
- Join the SEARAC’s legislative visit database – commit to visiting your local and federal elected officials to engage them on this issue. For more info, email email@example.com.
- Read and share One Love’s Statement against the government’s use of the word “Criminal” to target our loved ones, and join our Mailing List to stay informed. And see PrYSM’s End Racial Profiling Campaign to learn how to organize against institutionalized oppression of law enforcement in your community.
Organize your family, friends, & community to STAND UP & FIGHT BACK!
- One Love Movement, Pennsylvania
- Providence Youth Student Movement, Rhode Island
- Khmer Girls in Action, California
- Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association, Louisiana
- CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, New York
- Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, Washington D.C.