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Nan-Hui Jo in ICE Custody, Act Now

On Tuesday, Nan-Hui Jo — an undocumented domestic violence survivor who was convicted in March of child abduction after she and her young daughter fled her abuser — was sentenced to three years of probation and 175 days in county jail. Upon her release from prison on time already served, she was immediately taken into Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody and transferred to the Yuba County Jail as an immigrant detainee. She now faces likely deportation and permanent separation from her daughter, who remains in her abuser’s custody.

Nan-Hui Jo’s case is so horrifying precisely because it’s not an anomaly but rather a potent example of the ways in which the United States “justice” system punishes and criminalizes survivors, particularly those who are undocumented, of color, and/or queer or trans. Like a long line of other domestic violence survivors, including Marissa Alexander and Tondalo Hall, Nan-Hui Jo has endured both greater punishment than her abuser and a loss of custody of her child to him. Sumayya Coleman, a lead organizer in the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign, explains:

Marissa Alexander and Nan-Hui Jo took measures to defend their lives from men in their lives who repeatedly attacked them. They were then aggressively prosecuted and punished for defending their lives. Like Marissa, Nan-Hui Jo was forcibly separated from her child by systems that collaborated with her abusive ex-partner who received full custody. Importantly, both Marissa’s and Nan-Hui Jo’s abusive ex-partners testified on record about their history of violently attacking the women, yet the experience of domestic violence was trivialized, denied, or distorted by prosecutors. While there are notable differences in their experiences, the similarities are striking and alarming. Many women are living through violent nightmares that ensnare them within a systemic pattern of events that happens again and again to thousands of survivors of domestic violence in the US.

B_MOvuwVEAMChhh-300x225Nan-Hui is currently being held in the Yuba County Jail, which doubles as an immigration detention center. As #StandWithNanHui organizers point out, Nan-Hui’s case “is unfolding within a context of both county jails and private detention centers making lucrative profit from the incarceration of marginalized communities, overwhelmingly Black, Latina, and immigrant.” Indeed, the Yuba County jail has been under fire for their exploitative phone call costs: Leticia Miranda at The Nation reports that a 15-minute in-state phone call can cost upwards of $12 for a detainee and, with the county collecting a 45% commission on calls, Yuba County made more than $109,000 off of them in 2013. Such costs pose significant barriers to contacting family — and attorneys — and point to just who’s profiting from the U.S. prison and immigration detention system. According to #StandWithNanHui organizers, in 2012 Yuba County Jail generated $6.8 million in revenue from contract inmates.

Ending domestic violence means ending state violence against domestic violence survivors. You can stand with Nan-Hui by 1) signing this petition for her release, 2) donating to her legal defense fund, 3) writing her a letter, and 4) calling on ICE to demand her release from custody.

It shouldn’t be a crime to survive violence.

Header image credit: Dillon Sung

New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a senior editor at Feministing.com and the co-founder (and former ED) of Know Your IX, a national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, and The Nation. She's a student at Yale Law School.

Dana Bolger is the co-founder of Know Your IX and a senior editor at Feministing.

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