On October 8, 2020, Nancy Nguyen was arrested out of her house at around 7:30 pm in front of her two children (ages 18 months, 3 years old). The arrest was based on a warrant from Virginia for allegedly trespassing and littering during a protest in early September, in front of the house of Tony Pham, Director of ICE. Nancy is the Executive Director of VietLead, which focuses on sustainability and self-determination for Vietnamese and Southeast Asian communities in the region. The Sheller Center has collaborated with VietLead on a variety of projects in order to support them in advancing the rights of their community members. We have always been struck by Nancy’s leadership and vision for mobilizing and empowering community members.
Nancy’s arrest is likely the result of overreach by the local prosecutor and Philadelphia police. Yet it’s within the context of a current Administration that encourages retaliation against those who are engaged in resistance to the federal immigration system. Most notably, the government has stepped up surveillance and raids in “sanctuary” cities where immigrant activists and allies have actively advocated for such policies. ICE has also specifically sought out to arrest those who are immigrant rights activists, leading sometimes to deportation orders. These activities have created a chilling effect on activists while instilling fear more likely to depress organizing efforts.
Enough is enough. This is a country where dissent has played an integral role in fostering conversations that can help us reimagine how to reform our broken federal immigration system.