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In 2016, eight Cambodian Americans from Minnesota—collectively known as the MN8—were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without warning or chance to say goodbye to their families. They were going to be deported to Cambodia, a country where their families fled from genocide and war. Their families—primarily women, elders, & children—rallied around them and fought back. They mobilized community members and advocated to attorneys and Congress-members. At these rallies were babies, Khmer elders who have since passed away, community advocates, and more. The enormous efforts of the MN8, their loved ones, and community supporters sparked national attention and led to the eventual release of 3 of the 8 men. This started the #ReleaseMN8 grassroots campaign, a uniquely intergenerational movement led by family members who had never organized before. Our story begins with these eight remarkable individuals, their families, and the deep love that carried them through. However, we knew our fight was far from over. We vowed to never let another family be separated again and that we must reunite families. Since then, our campaign has bloomed into an abolitionist nonprofit organization that fights for the liberation of Southeast Asian communities. From the beginning, MN8’s origin was a love story about communities protecting their loved ones and fighting for freedom. MN8’s roots have always been grounded in community care, people power, and shared liberation. Since 2016, we have continued to dream of and build a world where our communities can live without fear and thrive for generations to come.
About the Organization:
$500,000 - $1 MILLION
The U.S war on Vietnam and, consequently, Southeast Asia as a whole has had a long-lasting impact on Southeast Asian communities. This includes but is certainly not limited to the displacement and resettlement of over 3 million people. Over 3.3 million Southeast Asian people currently reside in the U.S as a result of this war. The U.S. resettled many into underfunded and over-policed neighborhoods where Southeast Asian community members struggled with poverty and violence. In these neighborhoods, the police targeted, profiled, and criminalized community members, leading them to be incarcerated. In the 1990s, the U.S. passed a number of laws that targeted community members with certain convictions, including permanent residents, for detention and deportation, regardless of how old the conviction was. In the past decade, the U.S. has continued to weaponize and scale up the deportation machine through ICE. Over 17,000 Southeast Asians have received final orders of removal since 2002. We fight deportation cases in collaboration with attorneys, power builders, and other community organizations to return dignity and justice to our people. We understand that many more families will face violence at the hands of ICE. As a collective organization, we understand that Southeast Asian deportation is rooted within larger systemic issues of carcerality, militarism, and imperialism. The after-life of the American War in Southeast Asia lives on in the deportation and detention of Southeast Asians refugees. Our political analysis is rooted in a Southeast Asian abolitionist - feminist - immigrant - justice lens. This political framework guilds the way we will fight to end all family separations. There has been an increase in visa sanctions toward SEA countries since the pandemic and we expect that ICE will attack and displace our refugee communities even more due to the smaller number of deportations in 2020. As we saw in March 2021, just one day before the attacks in Atlanta, 33 Vietnamese men were secretly deported on one flight but was still overlooked. We must change this narrative around what Anti-Asian violence is to include deportations and the separation of families.
MN8 has five core strategies:
- Build a base of politicized Khmer and Southeast Asian folx,
- Build movements that are inter-connected between local and national and led by impacted communities,
- Change systems to prevent and end deportation,
- Provide direct support to impacted individuals and families, and
- Build an impactful organization that is well run and effectively meeting its goals and is in service to social justice movements.
These five core strategies inform our programming:
- Civic Engagement: Reaching out to Southeast Asian voters educating them about voter registration and election, Hosting candidate forums on key elections with an impact on crimmigration, Conduct Khmer community needs assessment through focus groups and door-knocking surveys, Host summer youth programming, virtual town halls, Building a base of strong grassroots organizers in Minnesota who will plug into our work locally and nationally through workshops, trainings, canvassing. Power building based on abolition and how deportation/detention has impacted SEA immigrant communities and how we can best support impacted families.
- Community Support: Hosting quarterly legal clinics, assessing & assisting cases of impacted members and families, providing mutual aid & Leadership Development within Impacted communities, Organizing record clearance clinics with partner organizations, Raising the Political Consciousness of our Community to focus on educating our own communities around racism, anti-blackness and white supremacy, develop a shared understanding of our Asian American history, a shared analysis of that history, and a connectedness to the broader fight for liberation.
- Advocacy: Organizing meetings with Congressional leaders and impacted folks to discuss federal, state, and local legislation and policy, conducting and sharing research on the level of ICE cooperation in Minnesota counties in the Twin Cities area (including suburbs), co-learning and practicing transformative justice, hosting community conversations related to safety needs and solutions, working with SEAFN on a multi year arc campaign to push for the Southeast Asian Relief & Responsibility Platform (SEARR), working with the Detention Watch Network (DWN) and other partners to minimize immigrant detention in MN, while staying in solidarity with other incarcerated people. We will develop a policy agenda in coordination with our movement partners and engage decision makers at every level.