National Domestic Violence Organizations Stand With Nan-Hui Jo
April 27 2015
As national organizations dedicated to ending domestic violence, we support Nan-Hui Jo in her fight for freedom and reunification with her daughter. Nan-Hui Jo is a survivor of domestic violence, a mother, and an undocumented immigrant.
In 2009, Nan-Hui Jo fled with her child to her home country of South Korea. She fled to escape the physical and emotional violence of her ex-partner and father of her child, and to comply with her immigration status. Twice that year, Nan-Hui had called the police after domestic violence incidents, and both times the police had failed to take a report. After Nan-Hui left, however, her ex-partner reported her actions as kidnapping, a common tactic used by abusers to reassert their control. In July 2014, when entering Hawaii with her daughter for vacation and to explore the possibility of re-initiating contact between the child and her father, Nan-Hui was apprehended and arrested in an operation that involved Yolo County Child Abduction Unit, Honolulu Police Department, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).
Nan-Hui was forcibly separated from her daughter and jailed immediately without the possibility of bail. In spite of having limited English language proficiency, Nan-Hui was given no interpretation for three whole days upon being jailed, until she appeared in court in Hawaii for the first time. She was transferred to Yolo County Jail, where she has been for almost nine months. Since July 2014, she has not been allowed to see or speak with her daughter. Authorities placed Nan-Hui’s daughter in the custody of Nan-Hui’s ex-partner, leaving the five year old with a man who had assaulted her mother and who does not speak her language.
We are deeply concerned by the Yolo District Attorney’s aggressive prosecution of a survivor of domestic violence. Though Nan-Hui’s ex-partner has publicly testified about his repeated violence against her, prosecuting attorney Steve Mount has insisted that this is not a case of domestic violence, dismissing the abuse as “just one incident.” Worse, in the face of evidence showing a pattern of threats and violence against Nan-Hui, Mount repeatedly alleged that Nan-Hui was the true abusive party in the relationship, even bringing a witness on the stand to testify that during an argument, Nan-Hui had “said the F word before.” Mount even referred to Nan-Hui as a “tiger mom,” revealing a disturbing pattern of racialized anti-immigrant sentiment in his prosecution.
This case highlights how the criminal-legal system can worsen the impact of domestic violence on survivors and their children. It shines a light on how the very systems that are supposed to help create safety and justice can instead further minimize abuse, criminalize survivors, and become another mechanism that batterers use to control and punish survivors in the long-term. We believe that Nan-Hui Jo is being criminalized by Yolo County because of the vulnerabilities she faces as a limited English proficient (LEP) undocumented immigrant. A system that should take into account her extremely limited access to information about her rights, domestic violence support resources, due process, family law, immigration law, and child abduction law, instead exploits these vulnerabilities in an aggressive (and expensive) display. Nan-Hui Jo’s case demonstrates precisely why so many immigrant survivors of domestic violence decide to stay in abusive relationships, and do not trust law enforcement or the legal system to help them.
Survivors of domestic violence should not be punished for defending themselves, protecting their children, and rebuilding their lives away from the violence of an abuser. Our legal systems should not entrap survivors in multiple legal systems that relentlessly criminalize and re-victimize them. Now, as Nan-Hui faces the possibility of being detained at an immigration detention facility and deported, we urge all domestic violence advocates to join us in the urgent call to take action for Nan-Hui. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) separates thousands of families each year by deporting undocumented parents, causing trauma and stress for their children. We must support all survivors of domestic violence regardless of immigration status. We join over 140 organizations nationally in demanding justice for Nan-Hui Jo. As national domestic violence organizations, we will continue to watch closely and advocate for her.
Asian Women’s Shelter, San Francisco, CA
Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, San Francisco, CA
Battered Women’s Justice Project, Minneapolis, MN
Casa de Esperanza, St. Paul, MN
Domestic Violence Consortium, San Francisco, CA
Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse, Oakland, CA
My Sister’s House, Sacramento, CA
National Latin@ Network, St. Paul, MN
National Network to End Domestic Violence, Washington D.C.
Women of Color Network, Harrisburg, PA