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Playlist: Will Coley's Portfolio

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Land of the Free, but Only for Some

From Will Coley | Part of the Indefensible: Stories of People Resisting Deportation series | 19:56

Eddy Arias remembers the night he was pulled over by the Houston Texas police. It was first time he had ever interacted with law enforcement since he’d moved to the U.S. from Mexico as a child. He still remembers every moment. When Eddy realized he’d been racially profiled, he stood up for his Constitutional rights. But what happened next drew him into a much larger debate about police enforcing immigration laws.

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Eddy Arias remembers the night he was pulled over by the Houston Texas police. It was first time he had ever interacted with law enforcement since he’d moved to the U.S. from Mexico as a child. He still remembers every moment. When Eddy realized he’d been racially profiled, he stood up for his Constitutional rights. But what happened next drew him into a much larger debate about police enforcing immigration laws.

Houston is home to thousands of immigrant families. On paper, police don’t enforce immigration laws on the streets. There are policies against this. Yet several successive mayors have refused to call Houston a “sanctuary city” for immigrants. For many years, the Harris county jail in Houston has collaborated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE). That means if someone is arrested, they can ultimately be transferred to ICE for deportation. This is called a “287g” agreement.

Eddy Arias learned firsthand about the way it works. And he decided to do something about it. Thanks in part to his activism as a member of United We Dream, Houston now has a new sheriff.

Indefensible: Stories of People Resisting Deportation (trailer)

From Will Coley | Part of the Indefensible: Stories of People Resisting Deportation series | 01:47

Indefensible is a podcast series brought to you by the Immigrant Defense Project. Over five episodes, producer Will Coley will bring you stories from people who are standing up and holding out; fighting to be with their families. They say they’re here to stay.

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Over the past twenty years, more than 4.5 million people have been deported from the United States, almost eight times more than in the previous 20 years. Extremely harsh immigration laws took the hallmarks of the War on Crime — mandatory sentencing, hyper-policing, and mass imprisonment — and extended these punitive measures to target immigrants. Detention and deportation became mandatory for a wide range of past criminal offenses, and immigrants were stripped of many basic rights, including the right to a fair day in court. (Read more about the 1996 laws here.) The climate of fear fueled by the War on Terror has justified the massive diversion of federal funding to police, imprison and exile immigrants has created the world’s largest detention and deportation system.

President Donald Trump has heightened the threat to human rights and fairness including his plans to vastly expand immigration police force and further limit the due process rights of immigrants. The new administration has effectively named all immigrants as a threat worthy of deportation, while particularly demonizing those who are arrested or convicted of a wide range of criminal offenses.

Our podcast showcases the stories of people who are directly facing this reality. But they’re not sitting back. Instead many are standing up and speaking out.

Sisters, Separated by Birth

From Will Coley | Part of the Indefensible: Stories of People Resisting Deportation series | 23:54

Lundy and Linda Khoy are sisters who both got in trouble with the law. They were arrested separately for ecstasy when they were in their teens. Both say they were rebelling against their strict immigrant parents in Virginia. But the similarities end there. The fork in their destinies can be traced back to where they were born.

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Lundy and Linda Khoy are sisters who both got in trouble with the law. They were arrested separately for intent to distribute ecstasy when they were in their teens. Both say they were rebelling against their strict parents in Virginia. The fork in their destinies can be traced back to where they were born – illustrating how a seemingly straightforward fact like birthplace gets codified in harsh immigration laws to create vastly different trajectories.

Lundy was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after her parents fled Cambodia’s genocide. Like millions of other Southeast Asians displaced from the region due to US aggression, the family was brought to the United States through a refugee resettlement program, and Linda was later born in California.  As they adjusted to life here, Lundy and her parents, who received Green Cards (or permanent residence status), didn’t know how to become U.S. citizens.

Linda’s arrest at 19 years old involved hundreds of pills of ecstasy. As a U.S. citizen, Linda served a year in prison and when she was released, she got on with her life. Lundy, on the other hand, was arrested with just seven pills. The judge suspended her sentence and put her on probation so she could go back to school, but now she is facing deportation. Even though Lundy married a US citizen and has a US citizen child, an immigration judge ordered her deported. Through her activism with groups like the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Immigrant Defense Project (IDP), and the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN), Lundy secured a pardon from the Governor of Virginia. But the risk of deportation still looms.

Immigrants with criminal convictions have been increasingly demonized by the Trump Administration. Alongside hateful and racist rhetoric, Trump’s executive orders set into motion an indiscriminate deportation machinery, blind to the realities of people’s lives: their children and families, how long they have been in the country, what they have contributed to their communities.  Because of changes enacted in the 1996 immigration laws, many non-citizens (including longtime residents like Lundy) face mandatory deportation for a broad range of offenses, including minor drug charges.

Southeast Asian American refugees have been disproportionately impacted by harsh laws designed to deport anyone with an old criminal record. Of all deportation orders to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam since 1998, almost 80% were due to old criminal convictions. The vast majority of these are people who came as babies and children fleeing war and genocide with their parents. Because these countries accept only a small number of deportees, around 12,000 community members like Lundy are living day-to-day with final orders of deportation, rebuilding their lives and raising families, all the while knowing that the threat of deportation looms over them. Lundy calls this a “life sentence.”

Cooking Up Resistance

From Will Coley | Part of the Indefensible: Stories of People Resisting Deportation series | 21:32

Patrick Thaxter’s story is emblematic of the particular struggles of Black people caught between our discriminatory criminal legal and immigration systems -- from policing to punishment. It speaks to the ways in which multiple forms of injustice intersect to criminalize and funnel Black immigrants, in particular, into the detention and deportation machine.

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Patrick Thaxter is a former chef who now works quietly in the kitchen of a good friend in Germantown, Philadelphia. Originally from Jamaica, he traveled to the U.S. for a soccer tournament eighteen years ago. On that trip, he met an American woman at a Miami club and the two fell in love. After impressing her with his curry chicken recipe, as he recounts, the two got married; he obtained a greencard; and eventually, they had three daughters.

Later on, Patrick became head chef of Mango Bush, a popular Jamaican restaurant, where many customers once flocked for his curry chicken and stewed peas. Patrick’s life was suddenly shook up after his brother passed away. The restaurant closed down for a month while he took care of the funeral matters in Kingston, the brothers’ hometown. Now short on cash, Patrick accepted a friend’s risky offer for help – and ended up getting arrested for a marijuana offense in Philadelphia. Instead of prison time, however, Patrick was sentenced to probation, which was later reduced to two years.

ICE arrested Patrick at one of his probation visits. As a greencard holder, ICE could deport Patrick over this one and only conviction from years back. Like many immigrants with old convictions, Patrick feared he would be banned from the U.S. – from his daughters, his craft, and his community – for life.

A cruel double punishment that U.S. immigration law allows for and regularly imposes on non-citizens.

The Criminalization of Black Immigrants

“What happened to Patrick and his family happened not just because he’s an immigrant but also because he’s black and because he is working class,” says Carl Lipscombe of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), who co-authored the landmark study on Black migrants in the U.S.
Patrick’s story is emblematic of the particular struggles of Black people caught between our discriminatory criminal legal and immigration systems — from policing to punishment. It speaks to the ways in which multiple forms of injustice intersect to criminalize and funnel Black immigrants, in particular, into the detention and deportation machine. Like Patrick, roughly 7% of non-citizens in the U.S. are Black immigrants — and yet Black immigrants comprise 21% of those in deportation proceedings as a result of criminal convictions.

“Black immigrants like African Americans, live in communities that are over policed, heavily policed and thus they’re more likely to be arrested and then more likely to go through the criminal justice system. But offenses involving drugs are common in all communities,” Lipscombe says.

His fight to stay with his daughters, to continue working his craft, and living his life against the double punishment of deportation is powerful. And fits squarely within Black Philadelphians’ long history of resistance to police violenceand oppression. For immigrants of color who have been impacted by the criminal legal system, Patrick’s words resonate, “I was fighting my case before Trump came into office and I’m still fighting my case. I’m gonna fight. That’s all.”

Southern Flight 242: Bringing My Father Home

From Will Coley | 26:26

When I was seven years old, my father died in a commercial plane crash. It’s a fact I grew up knowing and something I never wanted to look into, until now.

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When I was seven years old, my father died in a commercial plane crash. It’s a fact I grew up knowing and something I never wanted to look into, until now.

After I decided to make a radio story about the crash, I often wondered if it was the best choice as my first big project as a new radio producer. It took far longer than I ever expected, in part because it was so personal. But I realized that if I couldn’t answer tough personal questions, how could I expect others to do the same?

The initial kernel of the story idea came back in 1997 when I stumbled on an article in the New York Times about the 20th anniversary of the Southern Flight 242 accident (my family somehow missed being invited). And then in 2012, fifteen years later, I happened to be in Georgia for a conference that was 70 miles from the crash site. The key event in those intervening years was participating in the Transom Story Workshop. In Woods Hole, I learned much of what I needed to tell the story. I learned even more along the way.

Read more on Transo.org 

I Decided to Be Happy

From Will Coley | 06:15

Washeteria1_small From the Washeteria II Corp laundromat, Jeannette Peña, has a unique vantage point on her neighborhood in Queens, New York. Being both a laundry owner and attendant is challenging work but Jeannette believes it's important to smile no matter what. Besides making a good living, Jeannette loves hearing all kinds of stories from her customers. This piece was part of the Working Now project.

If Costco were a person...

From Will Coley | 07:20

On this episode of Hear in the City, we hear confessions of Will Coley, a Costco cardholder.

Screen_shot_2012-01-13_at_4 On this episode of Hear in the City, we hear confessions of Will Coley, a Costco cardholder about why he loves the sense of community that comes from being part of an elite club of deal-gatherers who frequent one of the few recession-proof companies.

Let My People Stay

From Will Coley | Part of the Indefensible: Stories of People Resisting Deportation series | 27:53

Long-time resident, community activist, father, and husband, Ravi Ragbir, has fought against permanent exile from life in the U.S. for over 11 years. For Ravi and his family, it’s been a fight to take back control over their lives.

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Long-time resident, community activist, father, and husband, Ravi Ragbir, has fought against permanent exile from life in the U.S. for over 11 years. For Ravi and his family, it’s been a fight to take back control over their life. Only a few months after Trump took office, Ravi mobilized a large rally in New York City for his ICE check-in. Dozens of elected officials, union and community organizations, and allies gathered in solidarity. As an organizer with groups like Families for Freedom and now as Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, Ravi made it clear that the rally was not just for him, but for all immigrants fighting the inhumanity of deportation – particularly those who lack his public profile and extensive support networks. As anti-immigrant rhetoric and attacks continued to proliferate across the country in 

Trump’s first 100 days, Ravi offered the crowd a moving reminder of the power of organized resistance: When I look out at you, each and every one here, this is a sea of love. This is like the Katrina that is going to overtake any wall that is going to be built because this sea of love is going to make that change.”

Ravi’s immigration story began when he came to the U.S. from Trinidad in 1991 on a visitor’s visa. In 1994, he became a lawful permanent resident. His U.S. citizen daughter, Deborah, was born the following year. A 15-year green card holder, Ravi was detained and ordered deported in 2006 by an immigration judge—without a hearing—based on a conviction for fraud, which he is currently seeking to vacate, based on factual and legal errors in his trial. He spent years on house arrest and in immigrant detention.

Today, with his own struggle driving his work alongside other impacted communities, Ravi has become a nationally-recognized leader. Through his work, Ravi met and eventually married Amy Gottlieb, a U.S. citizen and fellow immigrant rights activist with the American Friends Services Committee’s Immigration Program. Despite being eligible to readjust his status to permanent resident based on his marriage, the Board of Immigration Appeals denied Ravi’s request for an opportunity to be heard. Ravi is currently appealing this decision so that he can remain with his wife and daughter in the U.S., the place he has called home for over twenty years. The intersection of criminal and immigration law is tortuous, harsh, and offers limited due process. As Ravi’s attorney, Alina Das, Co-Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the NYU School of Law, puts it: “Every bad possible thing that could happen to you all wrapped into one decision that a government official is making.”

Ravi and Amy live in Brooklyn and spend the majority of their time in the New York/New Jersey area, where their family—including Ravi’s daughter Deborah—also lives. Amy considers Ravi her “closest friend and confidant” and describes their relationship as “a deep connection” in which they “have come to rely on each other for support, friendship, for advice, and companionship.” Deportation would destroy the couple’s dream of building a family together. “We have created a life together,” Amy explains, “and the idea of living that life without my husband is devastating.”

Ravi has experienced some of the worst of the deportation system. But as a result of the watershed changes Congress made to our immigration laws in 1996, thousands families face similar experiences every year. Over the past two decades, almost five million people have been torn from their families as a result. More so, because of his criminal conviction, an immigration judge ordered Ravi deported without granting him a hearing on the issue, stripping Ravi of a reasonable opportunity to present his full humanity, including evidence of his character and strong community ties. Like so many others, he was subject to mandatory, indefinite detention for years in New Jersey and Alabama, far from his community and his young daughter.

For more on Ravi’s life and social justice struggle, visit his defense committee page.

Podcast Extra: A Lot of Fire and Hope and Struggle

From Will Coley | Part of the Indefensible: Stories of People Resisting Deportation series | 20:00

To conclude the podcast series “Indefensible”, we created this podcast extra for listeners. It’s a conversation between Will Coley, the independent radio producer who created the series, and Mizue Aizeki, the Immigrant Defense Project’s Deputy Director. Will and Mizue talk about the larger context for the series. It’s been twenty years since the U.S. Congress made changes to the nation’s immigration system with the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act and and how you as a listener can get involved. To get the most out of the discussion, we recommend listening to the previous episodes.

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Over the past several weeks, Indefensible Podcast has brought you the stories of real people from across the country who have fought deportation well before the Trump administration. In each of the five episodes, we held space for immigrants to speak about their experiences in their own words. With other on-the-ground advocates and organizers, we hoped to help unmask the ongoing work of criminalization, which is at the heart of the increasingly cruel and devastating attacks on our friends and loved ones, and offer a counter-narrative to the hateful platitudes that dominate public debate.

To close out the series, we created this podcast extra for listeners who are interested in learning more about the context of the series, how the stories interconnect within the broader system, as well as ways to get involved. It’s a conversation between Will Coley, the independent radio producer who created the series, and Mizue Aizeki, Deputy Director of Immigrant Defense Project. Will and Mizue, both longtime immigrant rights advocates, discuss the social and political forces driving our era of mass deportation since the passage of the 1996 immigration lawsAs they remind us, it wasn’t always like this, and it doesn’t have to be.

Click through each of the episode pages to learn more about the individuals, organizations, and educational resources we included in the series. We are grateful for their partnership and vision for a different world. We also want to thank the Four Freedoms Fund for their generous support of the series. Share Indefensible with your friends and colleagues, and engage in the conversation on social media using the #IndefensiblePodcast hashtag. Thanks so much for listening to the series. Please let us know what you thought by rating and commenting on iTunes or dropping us an email at indefensiblepodcast@gmail.com.

P.S. Will mentions volunteering to visit people in immigration detention. For more information on a volunteer project near you, contact Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).