June 26, 2020
Earlier today, Governor Gavin Newsom granted a full and unconditional pardon to me preventing my deportation to Cambodia. My heart is full of gratitude. This never would have been possible without you, my family, my community, and the Asian Law Caucus fighting alongside me for years.
I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after my mother, just a teenager, fled genocide in Cambodia. I came to the United States with her as a child. As a teenager, I became trapped in an abusive relationship with a much older man. Shortly after I turned 18, he became jealous and killed my boss at my after-school job. I was arrested for aiding and abetting and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Even though I was told I would never leave prison alive, I kept hope alive and kept fighting. Eventually, my sentence was overturned – to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Over a decade into my prison sentence, I sent a letter to the Asian Law Caucus. I did not know who they were but I worried that I might be deported if I was ever granted parole. They wrote me back. Through letters, phone calls, and visits, we began planning to fight my deportation. Attorneys told me that no one sentenced to life without the possibility of parole had ever successfully fought deportation, but for me to hope meant to fight even against impossible odds.
The Asian Law Caucus fought alongside me at every step. They called on the Governor to grant me parole and to not turn me over to ICE. After I was turned over to ICE, they kept fighting my deportation. Packing the courtroom at every hearing, showing up to rallies and civil disobedience actions, and sending me letters encouraging me to keep hope alive. I’m also incredibly grateful to Survived and Punished, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, and Asian Prisoner Support Committee for fighting for my freedom and the freedom of other incarcerated immigrants and survivors.
After 16 years of incarceration, I walked out of immigration detention. Soon afterwards, I joined Asian Law Caucus as a Yuri Kochiyama fellow, a fellowship created for formerly incarcerated immigrants. Today, as a Community Advocate at Asian Law Caucus, I’m honored to fight, alongside the people who fought for me, for the freedom of so many loved ones I left behind in prison and detention who, like me, live with uncertainty and fear every single day. Our immigration and carceral systems don’t serve or protect our communities, and it will take all of us to reimagine ones in which our humanity and dignity are respected.
I am grateful to Governor Newsom for his pardon, and I want to ask him to extend clemency to other currently and formerly incarcerated refugees, immigrants and survivors facing deportation like I was. California can take a step in the right direction and stop the prison to ICE pipeline.
When we fight, we win!