The atrocities currently taking place at the Mexico-United States border have received such intense media scrutiny that the average, working-class American could be forgiven for forgetting that there are injustices of great magnitude happening all around us. Just Neighbors staff, volunteers, and like-minded citizens maintain awareness that immigrants of all nationalities and beliefs have been victimized and brutalized even while living within this country. As we remain invested in the fight against barbarity at the southern border, we cannot forget those vulnerable populations that are amongst us, seeking help, now. The small victories of our local work can fuel those passions required for the struggles playing out on the national stage.
Recently, Just Neighbors helped a woman named Ka Aun, mother of two children, obtain an extension for her green card and independence from her violent husband. Ka Aun was born in Cambodia, but she moved to the U.S. with her then-husband, an American citizen, just three years ago. Her older child was born in Cambodia but became a U.S. citizen, while her younger was born in the U.S. After bringing her to the United States through a 2-year conditional green card, her husband began terrorizing her physically and mentally. He husband collected all her immigration documentation and warned her that any mention of the abuse to law enforcement or her family would result in further beatings and separation from her son. He would beat Ka Aun with a closed fist in front of their 3-year old son while she was pregnant with her daughter. He also degraded the boy, forcing him to sleep on the floor, and beat him with a stick. While he left for work, Ka Aun’s husband locked her in his home with minimal food to the point that she felt they were starving. Ka Aun was so terrorized by the beatings that soon after her second child was born she stopped producing milk. After three years of continuous violence, a neighbor heard her screams and bravely called the police. Ka Aun has spent the last two years trying to get on her feet and care for the fragile emotional state of herself and her now 6-year old son and 3-year old daughter. Through the Violence Against Women Act, Just Neighbors was able to assist Ka Aun to obtain independence from her violent husband by assisting her to self-petition for a permanent green card based on the domestic violence that she suffered. Ka Aun’s story won’t make front page news; nonetheless, it’s a testament to the victories that can still be achieved despite the deadlock between our immigration system’s arbiters. It proves that Just Neighbors, and all those who support our organization, still have work to do locally, and how we act in these small endeavors indicates the future of our nation at large.