The ongoing criminalization of poor, Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities does daily harm to individuals, families, and the fabric of our society. Too many feel the pain caused by the shared violence of the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems.

Most of us know someone who has faced criminalization enabled by our county governments. Many of us have friends or family members who have been incarcerated or been threatened with deportation.

These are some of their stories:

Montha Chum, ReleaseMN8:

I am a co-founder of the ReleaseMN8 campaign. A campaign that started in August of 2016 after the detention of 8 Cambodian Minnesotans, one of whom was my brother. My brother came to the United States as a refugee fleeing war and genocide at the age of 1 years old. In his young adulthood, he committed a crime - breaking 3 windows at a bar - inflicting a criminal sentence of 365 days. Little did we know, this mistake and sentence by the Ramsey County courthouse would be the cause of his process through deportation system.

This is a problem with our criminal justice system. Immigrants and refugees are getting picked up for something like breaking three windows and pressured into taking plea deals - Most who were not informed that their plea would lead to immigration consequences.

Local and County Institutions are feeding vulnerable populations into the crimmigration system. INSTEAD, the county justice systems should be looking more thoroughly into immigration statuses and when issuing sentences. Give relief to those cases that they did not properly provide due process on because our families deserve this right.

After much hard work and organizing with the Ramsey county attorney, John Choi. My family was able to convince the county to reduce my brother’s sentence, which pulled him out of the deportation system. It shouldn’t take this much work to protect our families. We need to  recognize the relationship that the criminal justice system has with ICE and stop their collaboration.

Furthermore, our communities can be protected if counties provided and gave everyone regardless of criminal records access to immigrant/refugee legal defense funds. These systems are very complicated and extremely costly to families. Having funds available to all with help many Southeast Asian families facing deportation.