For My Cousin and for Justice – Steven Chow

I’m fighting deportation for my cousin, Tim, who was a Cambodian refugee and was deported in 2009. He was born in a Thai refugee camp while his family was fleeing the Cambodian genocide. He came to America as an infant refugee in the 1980s and grew up in a difficult neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. He faced racial discrimination and violence at school from the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, which ultimately influenced him to join a local gang for camaraderie and protection as a youth. His membership in a gang came with a life of crime and other poor decisions. He was arrested for burglary in June 2004 and only served 3 years of 6 before being transferred to ICE custody in June 2007. He was released on an order of supervision in November 2007. He realized he made bad decisions and wanted to turn his life around after his incarceration. He was rehabilitated, started to work a 9 to 5 job, and had two baby sons to take care of. He admitted that he did stupid things when he was younger but cleaned up his act and got his life together for his family. In November 2009, he was taken into ICE custody again and detained in the Northwest detention facility in Tacoma, Washington. He was transferred to the ICE office in Seattle a month later and deported to Cambodia on December 10, 2009. 

Current immigration policy is tearing families apart, barring felons from any chance for redemption, and robbing hope from deportees who want to return to their families. These zero tolerance deportation policies are cruel and unusual because of the excruciating emotional and economic stress that families and deportees have to endure. I’m fighting deportation to end this injustice.

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                                           For My Family - Quyen Dinh

I’m fighting deportation for the 12 cousins I grew up with and my aunts and uncles who are an inextricable part of my family. My parents arrived in the United States in 1981 as refugees from the Vietnam War.  Growing up, the family I knew were my parents and four brothers, my aunts and uncles, and 12 cousins (only 6 are pictured here) – 2 of whom were my Dad’s nephews who came to the United States as teenagers on their own without their parents.  As a struggling young person, one of those cousins turned to a local gang for camaraderie and support in the early 90s, and ended up in prison for 7 years for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Today, he’s a local business-owner, a proud husband, and a fierce father of two beautiful boys.  Because of his conviction record, he could be deported for an infraction as small as a speeding ticket, which would tear his family and ours apart. 

Too many families have cousins like mine whose voices are still silenced. I’m fighting deportation so that our family doesn’t have to live in fear of being torn apart. I’m fighting for policies that acknowledge each person’s dignity and their important contributions to building vibrant, resilient communities.

                                              Beautiful Life - Rithy Yin

I am fighting deportation because my new wife and I, and her little boy who I have raised as my own, are just beginning a beautiful life together. They both need me, and I need them. I made a mistake when I was a teenager, and I regret it every day. I lost 10 years of life with my family - births, birthdays, graduations.  Now all I want is to be a good husband and father, and spend time with my brothers and sisters and their kids, and give back to my community. That’s why I am joining together with other families to fight for second chances and against automatic deportation. 

                                               Everything - Lundy Khoy

I am fighting deportation because family means everything to me. And my family are all here in the United States - my parents, my sister and brother, all my cousins, aunts, uncles and my grandma.  I could be put on a plane any day to Cambodia, the place my parents fled in fear 32 years ago, just before I was born. I have chosen not to be silent, and to fight both for myself and for the hundreds of other people taken from their families every day. Home is where my family are and I’m fighting deportation to stay with them.

                                            Hope - Jonathan Tran
My family matters the most to me. They shape my values, give me immense opportunities and inspire my dedication to public service. My parents immigrated to the United States as refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Facing persecution for being ethnically Chinese in a war-torn Vietnam, both of my parents’ families left behind everything they were familiar with and sold everything they owned for the chance to come to America. They spent nearly a year and a half in refugee camps in Indonesia and Malaysia, sleeping in cold barracks that resembled backyard tool sheds. When my family finally made it to the United States, they had to adapt to entirely new culture and language. Somehow, through incredible will power, the kindness of community, and the support of social safety programs—my parents managed to give my sister and I opportunities they could only dream of. In their own way, they were able achieve an American Dream—not in the traditional white picket fence kind of way, but simply the opportunity to give their children a better and brighter future. 
Unfortunately, because of this country’s broken immigration system, the American Dream is becoming less and less attainable for families like mine. On a daily basis, families are being torn apart and others are left to live with the ever-looming uncertainty of deportation. I work in the political world, so it is easy to become very cynical. From budget cuts, to corrupt elected officials, to the growing influence of money in politics— there are plenty of reasons to lose faith in government and institutions and the democratic process. I have been fasting every Wednesday for the last 4 weeks because I refuse to give into the cynicism—or the belief that our country cannot progress or that the American Dream is unattainable. I am fasting because I remain hopeful that the American Dream can be a reality.