Emily Short graduated from Vassar College with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and concentrations in History and French and Francophone Studies. This summer, she is a Immigration Policy Intern at the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).
What major projects are you working on in your internship? What responsibilities are you most excited about and why?
This summer, I’m working for SEARAC, a non-profit organization that supports the advancement and interests of the Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian American communities. One of SEARAC’s main objectives is to combat criminal deportation within the Southeast Asian American community. One of my major projects has been compiling a database of the stories of people who have reached out to our organization looking for help. These folks typically came to the United States as refugees when they were children, got in trouble with the law in their adolescence, served their time, but are still being threatened with deportation by ICE because of these past convictions. In many cases, these individuals are taken by ICE authorities and forced into detention centers while their cases are processed by immigration judges. For many of these impacted individuals, their parents fled war torn countries like Cambodia and Laos only to spend many years in Thai refugee camps waiting to be resettled. Many of these individuals were born in the refugee camps and have never set foot in the country where they could be deported to. After the recent election, SEARAC received many letters from currently incarcerated individuals who were fearful that upon their release they will be picked up by ICE. As ICE raids have increased and the vilification of refugees by the current administration continues, there is a lot of fear in Southeast Asian American communities across the country.
I’ve also spent a lot of the internship focusing on SEARAC’s annual Leadership and Advocacy Training which took place at the end of June. During this three day conference, 50 participants from across the country came to D.C. to learn how to be an effective advocate. This conference culminated in a rally against deportation and in support of refugee resilience in front of the White House and nearly 40 meetings with state representatives on the Hill. We were lucky enough to have members of the #ReleaseMN8 movement join the conference. The Minnesota Eight are a group of Cambodian Americans who were taken in by ICE to be deported to Cambodia shortly after the inauguration. Five of these men have since been deported, two are still in detention waiting for their cases to be heard, and one has been released. The person who was released attended LAT with his wife, who was one of the lead organizers of the #ReleaseMN8 campaign. During LAT, they shared with us their story which encouraged others to share their stories about how deportation has affected them and their families. It was incredibly moving to be able to hear these stories and to see just how resilient our community is. The Southeast Asian American community has a unique history and faces challenges that are oftentimes overlooked and neglected during discussions of Asian American issues. As a Vietnamese-American woman, it has been a very meaningful experience to work at SEARAC and to be able to focus on helping this community that means so much to me.
When did you realize you wanted to explore public service?
I realized that I wanted to work in public service last summer through my internship with OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates. Growing up in Indiana, this was the first time that I was able to become a part of an Asian American Pacific Islander community. I was exposed to the many issues which the AAPI community faces and resolved to do what I could to help advocate for reform.
What are your plans/ goals after this internship? Are there any goals you want to accomplish this summer?
I’m currently on the job hunt (if you have any advice/leads let me know!) and ideally I’d like to stay in D.C. and continue to work in the AAPI political community.
What are you looking forward to in DC / where your internship is located?
My office is located near Dupont Circle, which gives me the chance to explore the many restaurants and bars in this area. I’m looking forward to making more connections with members of D.C.’s AAPI community and exploring more of the Asian food scene in Virginia and Maryland (which I’ve already started to do! Eden Center was like an oasis for me!)
What do you do for fun?
I love to cook! I spent my senior year at Vassar connecting to my roots by learning and perfecting recipes from both sides of my family. I would bake pies or bread on the weekends and make dumplings and gỏi cuốn whenever I could. For Thanksgiving, I had all of my friends over for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that I spent all day making.
For Tết, I finally perfected my mother’s phở recipe (and made a few hundred chả giò to go with it).
What is something that most people would not know about you?
I drive a 1989 Volvo! It’s my favorite car and I hate driving anything else.
Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.
Posted by Nattacha Munakata
Nattacha Munakata is currently a rising sophomore at George Mason University, studying Community Health with a concentration in Clinical Science (Pre-med). On campus, she is Peer Health Advisor, working to raise awareness and educate students on health issues. She is also involved in TEDxGMU and Thai Student Association. Outside, she likes to volunteer for local organizations and events, such as the DC Sakura matsuri and her local FIRST robotics team. During her free time, she likes to watch Netflix dramas and explore new music.