Southeast Asian Freedom Network

In the summer of 2001, CAAAV hosted its first Freedom Training as a space for Southeast Asian activists to gather together from all over the country. At the time, we were concerned about the impact of the 1996 welfare reform and immigration laws on our communities. One year later, this initial gathering evolved into a national network called theĀ Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN).

Immigration reforms had led to an unprecedented number of INS detentions of Southeast Asian youth who had served out their criminal sentences. They were automatically remanded by the INS to await the implementation of the new immigration enforcement laws. Southeast Asians, however, could not be deported since the U.S. did not have repatriation agreements with Cambodia, Laos, and Viet Nam (as well as with Cuba). The U.S. government’s solution was to indefinitely detain those who could not be deported. For Southeast Asian detainees this meant a life sentence in INS detention; thus they become known as lifers. In the case of Ma vs. Reno, Kim Ho Ma, a Cambodian detainee, challenged the state’s indefinite detention all the way to Supreme Court, where he won this historical case.

The Ma decision was a significant loss for the executive branch. Almost exactly, one year later, on March 2002, the State Department succeeded in strong-arming Cambodia into signing a repatriation treaty. A few months after the agreement, Kim Ho Ma is deported. With the signing of the agreement between the U.S. and Cambodia, deportation becomes a brutal reality for all Southeast Asian communities.

In the summer of 2002, CAAAV hosted another Southeast Asian Freedom Training. The annual training focused on the repatriation agreement, and its impact on our communities. Participants, Southeast Asian organizers, activists, and people with final orders of deportation discussed strategies and support for each other, as we were determined to create a movement to address the crisis in our communities. As a result, the Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) was created, and its first collaboration was the first ever national day of action in different Southeast Asian communities all over the country on November 7-8, 2002.

For the past year, SEAFN has been working to advocate on behalf of those deported and their families facing deportation. The network organizes on both the national and local levels. SEAFN has also connected those facing deportation with important media outlets, enabling their voices to be heard, and legal assistance. We hope to bring a national strategy to the injustice of deportation and poverty. If you know someone being deported (or family members who are concerned about someone they know), please feel free to call the toll-free deportation hotline at 1-877-57-CAAAV.

Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) is a national campaign to stop the deportation of our community members. The organizations currently part of the SEAFN are: Asian and Pacific Islanders for Community Empowerment (Oakland, CA), Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership (Oakland, CA), Asian Freedom Project (Madison, WI), CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities (New York, NY), Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA), Family Unity of Lowell (Lowell, MA), Khmer Girls in Action (Long Beach, CA), and Providence Youth Student Movement (Providence, RI).