SEARAC Joins Partners to Support Advocacy Campaigns Calling for the Release and Pardon of SEAA Community Members this Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us, and Americans across the country will be celebrating as safely as we can during the COVID-19 global pandemic, but our community members and loved ones who continue to be detained or face deportation cannot. Southeast Asian American communities endure family separation and have been impacted by deportation for decades, with the Cambodian American community bearing raids and increased removals at historic highs these past few years.

“Community organizers, impacted families, and legal aid partners are the leaders on the ground, spearheading campaigns to reunite and seek relief for our community members every day,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, Acting Executive Director of SEARAC. “We are thankful for their fierce leadership and join them in solidarity by taking action on these important community campaigns. Our thoughts are with impacted community members this holiday season, and we activate our collective voice to call for the release, pardon, and reunification of our communities.”

“The truth remains that ICE is trying to deport my brother after he fought the fires. He dreams of helping my elderly parents. On behalf of my family, I am asking Gov. Newsom to pardon my brother. Please keep our families together.” – Thong Keola, sister of Bounchan

“One of many reasons why we need local and state elected officials to do everything in their power to stop deportations is that jail/prison-to-immigration detention is the biggest pipeline for deportation [for SEAA, immigrant, and refugee communities],” says Nate Tan, co-director of Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC), one of the many groups leading gubernatorial pardon and clemency campaigns across California.

Our communities know the pain of family separations and are now facing the added challenge of protecting loved ones vulnerable to the spread of COVID in detention. One campaign led by partners at Mekong NYC, VietLead, and the Southeast Asian Defense Project are working to release community member Hieu Huynh, along with 400 immigrants and refugees who are currently detained by ICE at Essex County Correctional Facility in New Jersey.

“How can our government not want to give a second chance to someone who has done so much for our community, putting his life on the line to help saves lives? Gov. Newsom, I’m urging you to pardon my brother Kao, Boun, and other immigrants and refugees who have served their time. Let families heal together.” – Julie Andress, sister of Kao Saelee

“The ongoing detention of immigrants and refugees at Essex County constitutes a massive health crisis that is a threat to public health and safety. … Essex County was one of the first detention centers to report positive COVID-19 cases,” says Socheatta Meng, Director of the Southeast Asian Defense Project. Fighting for due process and reunification for our community members has been an ongoing struggle, Soche explains, and it’s important to “continue pushing out these petitions beyond today.” But we can all make a big impact right now by completing the actions below. Please join SEARAC, Nate, Socheatta, impacted families and advocates across the country to call on our elected officials and governors to pardon, release, and reunite our community members this holiday season!


Take a few minutes to sign the petitions, make calls, email, share or tweet in support of community members this holiday season!

Bring Hieu Huynh home for the holidays:
Hieu, a 49 year old refugee from Vietnam, has been detained in ICE custody as a direct transfer since May, for a conviction from over thirty years ago that he’s already served time for. (Toolkit courtesy of Mekong NYC, Southeast Asian Defense Project and VietLead.)
Free Kao Saelee:
Kao Saelee, a Mien refugee who has called the U.S. home since he was five years old. Serving a 22 year prison sentence, Kao fought wildfires in 2018 and 2019. When he earned his release from prison this August, California turned him over to ICE for deportation, days before the worst wildfire season in state history began.
Defend Boun:
Boun Keoun is a Khmu refugee from Laos who served as an incarcerated firefighter. On October 2nd, Boun was seriously injured fighting wildfires. Days later, the California Department of Corrections Rehabilitation (CDCR) called ICE to have him arrested.
Keep An Nguyen home pardon campaign
An Nguyen is a Vietnamese refugee who came to the United States as a child in 1990 to be reunited with his family. An served over 20 years in prison for mistakes he made during his youth and completed his prison sentence in 2019. However, instead of being released to his family, An was transferred to ICE custody for deportation proceedings.
Release Tien Ho campaign
Tien Ho has been transferred to ICE custody and separated from her family since 2019 at the Northwest Detention Center after completing her sentence. She has served her time and should not be punished indefinitely with deportation, simply for being an immigrant.
Right2Reunite pardon campaign to bring back four California deportees
We need your support to reunite four Cambodian deportees with their family and community. We know that if we’re able to prevent people from getting deported, we can also bring them back home! Veasna (China)Kay KayChanthan (Tone), and Chantha were separated from their families by ICE.
Sakhone Lasaphangthong pardon campaign
Please sign this petition calling for Governors across the nation to pardon refugees from Laos with deportation orders. In CA, the petition asks for Gov Newsom to pardon APSC Ambassador Sakhone Lasaphangthong #LeaveSakhoneAlone!
Drop the Charges against VietLead, SEAC Village and Charlotte Uprising
Community organizers are being arrested for standing up against ICE. Call on Henrico Commonwealth Attorney to not be complicit in these arrests and drop the charges for our community leaders.

VietLead and SEAC Village leaders (Picture provided by SEAC Village)

If there are community campaigns you would like to share with us, please email