Hey there—I shared the following on a social media post earlier this evening, and wanted to be sure that you saw my big news. :) Thank you, as always, for reading & for your friendship:
Dear friends, I have an announcement! (a 'lil long but it'd mean the world if you read this!) I've decided to go alllll in and specialize in immigrant justice law for the remainder of Attorney on the Move—and what I hope is a longer career rooted in fighting for immigrant rights. Over the last 7 months on the road (!), I've been thinking long & hard about how to make the biggest impact with my new legal model—while retaining passion and true personal & professional alignment. Several months ago, my time working at the federal Northwest Detention Center made an enormous impression on me on how hundreds of thousands of people (most without a criminal record) are being unjustly detained in this country. They are essentially living in internment camps and prisons, and it's true that once you experience working and spending time in such a place, it never really leaves your memory. It's always there, and I'm answering the call to go back.
Yesterday in Tucson, I had a case intake of a Honduran woman seeking potential asylum. Her story was featured on the front page of the local paper (www.tucson.com/…/article_33303fce-bfc0-516f-86a4-f495217b1b…). As mentioned in the article, she told me firsthand about how after saving enough money to open her own food stand, she refused to pay a local gang money, and a couple weeks later on her birthday, they burned her stand down. After going to the police who told her nothing could be done bc there were no witnesses, she started selling her food on the streets again—and the local gang sent several men to beat and rape her. She told me that if another woman hadn't found her on the street, she was certain she was going to die. She was also worried that her young son would be recruited into the local gang—as so many already were. There are thousands of women and children fleeing Central America with variations of this story.
I am very passionate about working in impacted communities and communities of color—and have been spending the entirety of my career thus far trying to figure out what the best conduit is for me to affect change and progress to the best of my ability. I feel that the present (and really ever-present) anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and refugee, and anti-people of color sentiment, rhetoric, and narrative are at an all-time high. The immigrant community has deep intersectionalities with many other oppressive institutions in this country and around the globe: racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism—the list goes on. Specializing in immigrant justice work feels like the best way I can make the deepest and most heartfelt contribution in pushing back against the status quo as it may intersect with any number of these -isms.
I am also the child of a Thai immigrant. Although I am not close with my mother (as some know & it's tough to put that out there), I have seen the difficulties firsthand of immigrant life—even after the naturalization process. I witnessed the harassment and discrimination she faced frequently and experienced some of that myself as being one of only a handful of kids of color in my mostly white neighborhood and schools growing up. Although my hometown and childhood schools are more diverse now than when I was a kid, that doesn't mean our immigrant communities and people of color are any less marginalized. This is a critically important distinction.
So—next week, I'll be moving on to Santa Fe, NM to work with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project for a month, and then I'm off to Dilley, TX for 3 months (the longest project stop yet) where I'll be at the largest federal detention center in the country—nearly 2000 women and children from Central America are being detained as they are seeking asylum from gang violence in their home countries. I'll be working with colleagues in Dilley round the clock helping to get asylum for as many migrants as possible. Right now, there are only 5 staff attorneys serving the entire 2000 person facility, and volunteers typically come in for a week at a time. I'll be able to stay for 3 months because of your support emotionally & financially through my crowdfunder (www.crowdrise.com/attorneyonthemove). Thank you for your fierce allyship & friendship over these months & years—I am better because our paths have crossed.
Finally, the Virtual Law Office will be opening in Spring 2016, with a likely launch after my intensive time at Dilley, to even further inform the immigration-based services that will be initially offered. Since immigration law is federal, I can practice from anywhere (an added plus with my new legal model). After Texas, I'll continue to work at detention centers/immigrant rights organizations in the Deep South, East Coast, and Midwest (please give me a shout if you know of any I should check out!). And that should put me through the end of 2016. Thank you for your support & your friendship during this entire ride since the beginning. Wheeeewie! Although in many ways the journey will be getting more difficult—I am hopeful that the potential impact will be sweeter than I could have ever imagined. Peace and much love—I truly hope to see you soon.