“Continue to speak your truth and ask hard questions.”
*response written by Saira Hussain, Criminal Justice Reform Staff Attorney at Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus*
The first and last time we saw one another, you were still at the Central California Women’s Facility, the largest women’s prison in the U.S. Shortly before we met, you had been approved for parole by the Parole Board, and we set out preparing for your release, all the while knowing that you likely would be picked up by immigration. Nonetheless, it still struck a blow on the morning I found out you had been transferred to immigration custody.
You know firsthand that women’s prisons are full of women who have experienced domestic violence and sexual abuse; studies place the figure at over 90 percent for some women’s prisons. These survivors are abused twice: first within their personal relationships and again by state-sponsored violence — meaning incarceration and deportation. And these systems operate outside of the public eye, occupying sprawling lands that are hours from city centers, ensuring that there are few witnesses to the injustices taking place within their walled and barbed wired compounds.
Our incarceration and deportation systems are devoid of compassion, of understanding, of humanity. Yet, despite the unthinkable trauma you endured from a young age and despite years of intimate familiarity with these systems, you embody these remarkable qualities. Ny, you are so much more than what society has labeled you.
I don’t know how to respond to your questions because I don’t believe there are any good answers — at least not in the systems our country has created. But I can tell you what justice looks like to me. Justice looks like reuniting with your family. Justice looks like remaining in the only country you have ever known. Justice looks like fulfilling your goal of becoming a domestic violence counselor because who better to help other women than someone who has been in the same situation? Justice looks like making a new life for yourself, free from the confines of metal bars and threats of exile to a land you have never known. Justice looks like our society examining how we have failed and continue to fail survivors of violence by blaming them for the abuse they suffer and then punishing them for either protecting or “failing” to protect themselves and their children. Justice looks like freedom.
Continue to speak your truth and ask hard questions. You have a whole community of supporters standing with you and advocating for your freedom. I hope justice comes soon.