Stand With Nan-Hui: Stop the Deportation of a Domestic Violence Survivor

standwithnanhui-imageonlyNan-Hui Jo, the undocumented single mother of a six-year-old daughter, is currently behind bars at the Yolo County jail in Northern California.

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.

You can sign the petition for Nan-Hui’s release here or donate to her legal defense fund here. Tweet with the hashtag #StandWithNanHui to raise awareness on social media.

Photo courtesy of KACEDA

Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.




  1. Alexandra Thorsen says:

    This is so unvelievable… How dare they for putting he through this. She deserves better. She needs to be left alone by bullies and helped by allies.

  2. Interesting intersection between law, immigration, and policy. Clearly, she did “kidnap” the girl under the law. I’m a lawyer and know, and would hope that other people agree, that you can’t just take a child away. There was no allegation that the father assaulted the child, right? At least in NJ, there is no exception for “good intentions” when it comes to custody issues.

    Next, she went to trial and was found guilty. Now, I’m confused because the article says she’s “undocumented”, but if so, how was she entering the country (just as an aside)? So she’s found guilty, she, under the letter of law did break the law, but how do we reconcile this? Was there an error in the trial? The verdict? Or is it just “i don’t like the verdict.” Not liking the verdict does not mean the justification is legally sound.

    As far as immigration consequences, if she was a permanent resident, a crime of that magnitude leads to deportation. If undocumented, then a criminal conviction or not could lead to her deportation.

    I think this is a case where we all go “oh that sucks” but at every turn, I don’t know to stop the process. Even if the conviction is overturned, does anyone know if she qualifies for asylum or other relief for her admitted immigration issue?

  3. Nan-Hui Jo is a Korean immigrant who suffered abuse at the hands of her child’s father, a white American veteran with debilitating PTSD named Jesse Charlton. On one such occasion, Charlton choked Jo and shoved her against a wall. Her American Visa was expiring and she didn’t have a support network stateside, so Jo fled with her baby back to South Korea. Charlton sent Jo emails saying he was going to spend thousands of dollars for a “scary bounty hunter” to find her and the child. Jo stopped reading those emails, choosing instead to focus on building a stable and safe life with her daughter (Vitz Da, aka Hwi) in Korea. If she had continued reading those emails, Jo might have realized that Charlton had filed child abduction charges against her.

    Flash forward 6 years. Jo decided to bring Da to the US in order to attend good schools and to perhaps introduce Da to her father, if Jo felt it was safe. Immediately after Jo and Da arrived in Hawaii, Jo was arrested – US officials had been notified of her pending arrival and had been waiting for her. Da was sent to Sacramento to live with her father, a man that Jo had not yet told her about. The case went to trial. Charlton admitted to shoving and choking Jo. He had also been known to punch things – twice breaking his hand after pounding a wall and a steering wheel – in his flare-ups of anger. Furthermore, Charlton testified that he was discharged from the military in 2005. He was saddled with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD that caused memory loss, depression, and erratic behavior. The Veterans Affairs Department had found him to be 70 percent disabled. The jury deliberated and could not come to a unanimous decision; it was hung.

    The Yolo County DA’s office was not satisfied. They decided to bring their own child abduction charges against Jo, and she was re-tried. In the meantime, Da was still living with Charlton. Da was confused; she told him she missed her mom. Charlton replied, “Mom’s made a mistake and she’s trying to deal with it.”

    On March 2nd, Juror #5 came forward and said she could not morally make a decision in this case. More specifically, she said that the jurors were instructed to determine if Jo acted with malicious intent when she left with Da. The term “malicious” was defined legally as “purposeful.” Juror #5 later confessed that yes, she believed that Jo had purposely taken Da, but she couldn’t be asked to make a decision based off that criteria. The judge dismissed her and a new juror was brought in. The jury was required to re-deliberate, although word spread that Juror #5 had been the only person standing in the way of a verdict. The jury came back 2.5 hours later. They declared Jo guilty.

    Please, PLEASE sign the petition to stop the deportation of Nan-Hui Jo, which would result in a permanent separation of her and her daughter.

    For more information and ways to act, see:

    Stay up-to-date on Twitter with: #‎StandWithNanHui #‎Not1More #‎WeSurvived

    • Starbuc says:

      According to the Sacbee articles that seem to get left out of the letter-writing campaign, this woman threw the baby at the father, and then he grabbed her by the throat.

      She is not so innocent. Not a victim by any stretch.

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