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When I was invited to join in a civil disobedience action that would lead to my arrest, I was terrified. What if I started crying when the police put me into handcuffs? So I asked around: what could I expect? How would it feel when I was arrested? What would happen?

 

The clearest advice I got was, “Dress cute... there will be photos!”

 

So, on September 12, 2013, the day after America’s Day of Remembrance of 9/11, when most Americans celebrate their victory over terrorism, I joined more than 100 women to participate in an act of civil disobedience by We Belong Together [link: webelongtogether.org] to protest the terror that women and children living in our neighborhoods experience every day.

 

Wearing bright pink wedge heels.

 

There are women and children who live in our communities, go to our schools, are friends with our children, and yet they are afraid to step outside their front doors. Because they know of friends, or cousins, or neighbors, whose parents went to work one day... and never came home. Of families, suddenly, and inexplicably, torn apart by immigration rules that no one understands. The worry causes grade-school children to suffer from depression and anxiety because they do not know, day to day, whether they will return from school and find their parents home or not.

 

I know what it’s like to have a family permanently destroyed because of deportation.

 

Fifteen years ago, my uncle was deported back to South Korea – and in the process, left behind two children, ages 7 and 5. When their mother was also unable to care for them, my cousins became part of the thousands of US citizen children who have been lost in the foster system because of immigration enforcement proceedings against their parents.

 

I’m ashamed to say that I still don’t know what became of my cousins, if they managed to stay together through different foster homes, whether they are okay now. That loss, and the unknowing, weigh on me. And knowing that thousands of other loving families are going through the same separation and loss, breaks my heart. Our families matter; we should not be losing our children to foster care and our parents to detention centers.

 

So last Thursday, I sat down in an intersection in front of Congress with women from faith, labor, health, and women’s, immigrant, and civil rights organizations, including 20 undocumented immigrant women, refusing to move, and submitting to arrest. We sang and chanted and cheered as the police began to arrest us. As one of the last to be arrested, I watched as women were led away in handcuffs, as more women stretched to keep the circle in tact, as we celebrated each woman who willingly submitted to arrest. The power in that circle was immense and intense. There were times when I had to stop chanting and breathe deeply, to keep from being overwhelmed by my emotions; and times when I cheered at the top of my lungs.

 

When the police came for me, I shouted, “What do we want? Immigration Reform! When do we want it? NOW!!”

 

It is unfathomable that a woman can risk arrest, indefinite detainment, and possible deportation, for daring to drive her infant daughter to the hospital when she has a seizure. What kind of world are we living in when a nursing mother has her infant ripped from her breast, and is processed for deportation, because of an argument with her husband? Or when a woman who moved to America because her son needed life-saving heart surgery and follow-up care, which he would not be able to receive back home, is threatened with deportation?

 

Again and again, women risk everything so their children can receive the health care they need, against immigration enforcement policies that put children in danger. Their lives, health, and well-being should not be at risk because of hardline laws that treat human lives as expendable.

 

And that’s why my organization, the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations [link to aapcho.org] (AAPCHO), supported my decision to participate in this action. Every day, our member community health centers, work tirelessly to provide health care to low-income, uninsured, and Limited-English Proficient patients, many with varying immigration statuses. Every day, our health centers strive to provide quality, affordable, and dignified health care to patients who have few, if any, other options. And every day, we struggle to support our patients and their families to take advantage of the primary and preventive services – vaccinations, pre-natal care, pediatric care –that keep ALL of us healthier.  

 

While in police custody, I was honored to be among so many strong, awe-inspiring women, who had dedicated their careers and lives to fighting for the underserved, disempowered, silenced. The eldest protester was a 75-year-old, undocumented grandmother, who has lived in this country for decades, who sat stoically beside her 25-year-old granddaughter. When they were released together, the arresting officers celebrated their release along with everyone else.

 

I have no regrets for getting arrested in an act of civil disobedience. I know that my participation cannot compare to what women and children go through every day, when parents are detained and families are separated, by laws that disrupt lives and destroy families. I know that I cannot save the people who have already been deported or lost. I know that America deserves immigration policies that respect our families, give individuals an opportunity to earn U.S. citizenship, and ensure that everyone has access to health care.

 

But I can fight alongside my sisters in action and community health center leaders to make sure that every immigrant mother and child receives the health care they need and to make sure that Congress hears the voices of community health leaders who believe that health justice for immigrants are human rights.

 

When I was finally released from police custody, one of the last three women to be let go, it was nearly 9:00PM. My phone held several voice-messages and texts from my worried parents wondering if I was okay. I hadn’t eaten in nearly 13 hours. I was tired, hungry, and dirty.

But I was so, so proud.

When I was invited to join in a civil disobedience action that would lead to my arrest, I was

terrified. What if I started crying when the police put me into handcuffs? So I asked around: what

could I expect? How would it feel when I was arrested? What would happen?

The clearest advice I got was, “Dress cute... there will be photos!”

So, on September 12, 2013, the day after America’s Day of Remembrance of 9/11, when most

Americans celebrate their victory over terrorism, I joined more than 100 women to participate

in an act of civil disobedience by We Belong Together [link: webelongtogether.org] to protest the

terror that women and children living in our neighborhoods experience every day.

Wearing bright pink wedge heels.

There are women and children who live in our communities, go to our schools, are friends with our

children, and yet they are afraid to step outside their front doors. Because they know of friends, or

cousins, or neighbors, whose parents went to work one day... and never came home. Of families,

suddenly, and inexplicably, torn apart by immigration rules that no one understands. The worry

causes grade-school children to suffer from depression and anxiety because they do not know, day

to day, whether they will return from school and find their parents home or not.

I know what it’s like to have a family permanently destroyed because of deportation.

Fifteen years ago, my uncle was deported back to South Korea – and in the process, left behind two

children, ages 7 and 5. When their mother was also unable to care for them, my cousins became

part of the thousands of US citizen children who have been lost in the foster system because of

immigration enforcement proceedings against their parents.

I’m ashamed to say that I still don’t know what became of my cousins, if they managed to stay

together through different foster homes, whether they are okay now. That loss, and the unknowing,

weigh on me. And knowing that thousands of other loving families are going through the same

separation and loss, breaks my heart. Our families matter; we should not be losing our children to

foster care and our parents to detention centers.

So last Thursday, I sat down in an intersection in front of Congress with women from faith, labor,

health, and women’s, immigrant, and civil rights organizations, including 20 undocumented

immigrant women, refusing to move, and submitting to arrest. We sang and chanted and cheered as

the police began to arrest us. As one of the last to be arrested, I watched as women were led away

in handcuffs, as more women stretched to keep the circle in tact, as we celebrated each woman who

willingly submitted to arrest. The power in that circle was immense and intense. There were times

when I had to stop chanting and breathe deeply, to keep from being overwhelmed by my emotions;

and times when I cheered at the top of my lungs.

When the police came for me, I shouted, “What do we want? Immigration Reform! When do we

want it? NOW!!”

It is unfathomable that a woman can risk arrest, indefinite detainment, and possible deportation,

for daring to drive her infant daughter to the hospital when she has a seizure. What kind of world


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