She has been separated from her daughter, Vitz Da, for seven months and is facing deportation and prison time. Her crime: fleeing the U.S. with her daughter in 2009 to escape her physically abusive partner.
Vitz Da’s father, Jesse Charlton, an Iraq war veteran with PTSD and anger issues, openly admitted in court to assaulting Nan-Hui, and she had twice called the police when they lived together. Worried for the safety of her daughter and without other resources, Nan-Hui took Vitz Da and went back to her homeland, South Korea.
When she returned last summer to find a school for Vitz Da, she was handcuffed and arrested for child abduction. Unbeknownst to Nan-Hui, Charlton had filed kidnapping charges against her while she was in Korea, a common tactic used by abusers to control their victims.
Her first trial in December ended in a hung jury, but the district attorney insisted on a retrial, in which the jury came back with a guilty verdict. Since Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) mandated that deportation proceedings begin right after Nan-Hui’s retrial, permanent separation from her daughter appears imminent.
Despite his violent history, Charlton is now in full custody of Vitz Da while her mother awaits sentencing.
Social justice groups have been mobilizing since her arrest, with organizations such as the Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse (KACEDA), the Domestic Violence Consortium and the Asian Women’s Shelter mounting aggressive campaigns to fight for Nan-Hui.
As Think Progress reports, 51 percent of domestic violence homicide victims are foreign-born and 60 percent of immigrant Korean women have been assaulted by their husbands. The double bind of being a woman and an immigrant creates a dangerous intersection of oppression that abusers often manipulate.
Hyejin Shim of KACEDA told Ms.:
What’s happening to Nan-Hui sends a dangerous message to other undocumented survivors. If you stay, you will be blamed and judged. If you leave, you will be punished by the law more severely than your partner ever would and face never seeing your child again. It’s a nightmare.
Nan-Hui’s supporters are looking into a possible appeal following the sentencing hearing on April 1. It is uncertain whether Nan-Hui will remain in jail or be transferred to an immigration detention facility.
Nan-Hu and other immigrant women like her are not criminals; they are survivors who need support and protection.
Photo courtesy of KACEDA
Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.