The most tangible way we can show our support for immigrant rights here in Ithaca is supporting the individuals who are targeted. Will you contribute today to help our friend in need?
Our friend Somkiat Wandee was arrested by I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on Jan. 9th in Ithaca, NY, on the charge of overstaying his visa. He was released on bond ($7,500) on Feb. 6 from the Batavia Federal Detention Center.
Upon his release, Somkiat stated, “I was so lost when I got into the detention center; I didn’t know what to do. Now I am rejoiced to be released, with the support I have received. I’m grateful for the support of TCIRC (Tompkins Co. Immigrant Rights Coalition). I feel warm now to know that there is a group of people caring for immigrants like me. Thank you.”
Now he needs our support for legal fees for the asylum application process, which runs around $6000.
It would be safer for Somkiat to remain in the United States than to return to his home country. He has been in Ithaca for eight years, and built a life here with friends. He also hopes that with your support and the lawyer’s help, he can be receive a temporary working permit so he can subsist during the time of his legal process.
Please donate however much you can, big or small; anything helps!
Somkiat (Art) Wandee, the head chef of the popular Ithaca restaurant Taste of Thai, was released on bond ($7,500) today from the Batavia Federal Detention Center, where he has been held since his January 9, 2018 arrest by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on the charge of overstaying his visa.
Upon his release, Art stated, “I was so lost when I got into the detention center; I didn’t know what to do. Now I am rejoiced to be released, with the support I have received. I’m grateful for the support of TCIRC. I feel warm now to know that there is a group of people caring for immigrants like me. Thank you.”
The active community member and respected chef was one of three people in Ithaca to be arrested by ICE last month. An eyewitness to Art’s arrest stated that he was arrested at the restaurant where he has worked for many years by undercover agents posing as Ithaca police.
Wandee’s coworkers and friends attended his bond hearing to support the Ithaca man, describing him as an integral part of the restaurant, and as a generous friend and community member.
Navjot Kaur, who works at Taste of Thai, has known Wandee since she was 19, when Kaur was a student at TC3 and later at Cornell University. Kaur describes Wandee as "incredibly hardworking, reliable, and humble... he is the person that everyone relies upon...[he] would treat the kitchen staff and servers like family. Even though he was the chef who cooked the food, he asked the kitchen staff to go together to receive the praise...We miss him and we hope to see him again soon."
Thanomsinn Lislevatn, a chef at Taste of Thai for twelve years, recalls getting to know Wandee over meals at home. Lislevatn and Wandee also cooked free meals for the Buddhist Temple in Binghamton, where Wandee often volunteered. "He is very respectful to elderly people like myself," says Lislevatn. "He takes care of chores around my house, planting the garden, watering plants, fixing the garden hose...he has a big heart...he is like family.”
Kade Williams-Verona, another co-worker, added, “Art's court date in Batavia was a triumphant day to witness, not only on a personal level, but on a community level. It was encouraging to see his reaction to our show of support.”
Tristan Kiel Ross, born and raised in Ithaca, praised the work ethic of immigrants he has known: "Workers such as Art (Somkiat Wandee) and the restaurants they operate help to keep money in the community. I speak as a local who has happily worked alongside him and many other hardworking and good-hearted immigrants and felt the real positive impacts of their presence.”
Patricia Rodriguez, associate professor of politics at Ithaca College and a member of the TCIRC steering committee, commented on the support that Somkiat has received from those who know him well: "It has been powerful to see Somkiat’s friends and co-workers rally behind him, and be at the hearing. The Tompkins County Immigrant Rights Coalition is working to support Somkiat and other members of the community who have been detained by ICE. As we learn more about his case, we realize that the arrest follows a pattern nationally where immigration officials allegedly disguise themselves as local law enforcement and uproot hardworking immigrants’ lives in unimaginable ways. This is not acceptable, and the criminalization of people of color should be questioned and resisted at every step of the way."
Shortly after Wandee's hearing on Tuesday, a rally was held at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Commons to protest ICE's presence in the city, and to show solidarity for immigrant and racialized communities who are particularly vulnerable under immigration and customs enforcement.
The Tompkins Country Immigrant Rights Coalition is a group of people from diverse backgrounds and multiple affiliations who work together on behalf of immigrant rights and comprehensive immigration reform.
Contact: Tompkins County Immigrant Rights Coalition (TCIRC)
Beth Harris: email@example.com
Patricia Rodriguez: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Beth Harris and Patricia Rodriguez from the steering committee of the Tompkins County Immigrant Rights Coalition (TCIRC) talk about a range of immigration related issues. A "Rapid Response Training" will take place on January 28th from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Unitarian Church on Buffalo Street. In Tompkins County people can call the following hotline number in case of emergency (for example if an ICE raid is in progress): 607-358-5119. It is the hotline number for the Rapid Response Network. In Ithaca, during January 2018 three people have been arrested at work by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Nationally, president Trump has rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is scheduled to be discontinued in early March, meaning young people who are currently documented with temporary authorization to stay and work in the U.S. will because of government action become undocumented. Similarly, tens of thousands of people who had Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have been targeted to lose their status. The federal government officially claims to be detaining and deporting "criminals" but does not report what the nature of the crime was. Often it is merely unauthorized presence, which in the past was treated as an administrative infraction. Unlawful entry falls under civil law, not criminal law, which is also the reason why undocumented immigrants are not able to get free court appointed lawyers. Another problem has been that people, who had received work authorization under the Obama administration because their case has not yet been decided and it may be years before it proceeds through the courts, are now finding it difficult to renew their work permits. Backlogs mean that renewals now take six months, which makes it difficult for people to continue working or to get a new job. Beth Harris talks about her visit to Austin, Texas and northern Mexico, where she met with activists from "Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera" (ATCF) and the "Comite Fronterizo de Obreras." They try to address labor violations, including violence at the workplace, in the maquiladoras in northern Mexico. Beth also recently attended a state-wide meeting with the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). The coalition is working on three main issues: 1) the Green Light New York Campaign to make it possible for undocumented New Yorkers to get drivers licenses; 2) getting funds for people's legal defense; 3) expand literacy programs such as English as a Second Language (ESL)."