#RedefineSecurity
Kevin Lam, 26 (QAPA Boston & NQAPIA)

Stories

Kevin Lam, 26 (QAPA Boston & NQAPIA)

Kevin Lam, 26 (QAPA Boston & NQAPIA)

“In 2013, as Khmer New Year in Providence, RI was wrapping up, my co-worker was stopped by police.

My co-worker and I were the main transportation for young people we worked with to get home after the event. When I saw that my co-worker had been stopped, I made a u-turn to check-in on her and the youth. As I pulled up, a police officer approached my car. I told him that I wanted to check to see if my co-worker and our young people were okay, and to see if I could at least get some of the youth home since it was late. The police officer told me, "I don't know who you are," and demanded that I "get the hell out of here or else..."

After dropping off all the young people in my car, my co-worker called asking me if I could come back because the police were towing her car. They didn't give her any time to coordinate rides for our young people to get home, so they were left waiting on the side of the street for friends and community members to pick them up to get them home safely.

After everything happened, I felt hopeless, and angry that I couldn't do anything to help in that moment. Because of my skin color, I know there is a level of privilege and access that I have, and I was able to use that to keep some young people safe from police harassment.

But it still hurts and makes me angry to see that as reasonable and calm as I tried to be with the police, they did not care. They did not care about our young people who we wanted to get home safe, and they didn't care about leaving people on the side of the street stranded. In the end, we were able to take care of our people and community, while the police did nothing to protect our people and community, or make sure we were safe.

That is why I believe we need to#RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants.”

Jyoti Chand, 33 (Stop LAPD Spying Coalition)

Jyoti Chand, 33 (Stop LAPD Spying Coalition)

“I am a coordinating team member of Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, an anti-state violence and anti-police spying coalition.

In 2014, my apartment was broken into. My laptop, which I use for my community organizing work, and my paper notes, to document the use of human and electronic surveillance by the police, were stolen. I felt violated in my home, my space safe.

Soon after, a person who befriended me within the coalition space, was invited by me to my home. We went outside of my apartment unit. When she saw a police helicopter, she remarked 'we should shoot it down.' It felt as if she were luring me into self incrimination. I trusted my instinct to protect myself and knew I was not safe. Soon after, she disappeared and stopped communicating with our coalition.

Sharing my story empowers me and others in the community to speak up and protect our ourselves from the architecture of state violence, spying, surveillance and infiltration.

Will we sleep or will we fight?”

#RedefineSecurity #StopProfilingImmigrants

August Guang, 26 (PRYSM & NQAPIA)

August Guang, 26 (PRYSM & NQAPIA)

"I was 19 when the TSA started using full body scanners in 2010. I found myself suddenly under their microscope. Until then I had gone through with relative ease - though my suitcase was often searched because of my mom's import business - because as an East Asian U.S. citizen I didn't fit the profile of a terrorist. Now, for some reason I could never pass by their scanners, always being subjected to invasive pat-downs and searches, having officers reach into my pants and up into my shirt and even up into my binder, walking through the same scanner multiple times and holding everyone else up in line.

It wasn't until I was 21 and on my way to an interview that I realized what was going on. The TSA agent made me walk through the scanner 3 times, as she got more and more confused. She called over another TSA agent, and they were discussing how there must be a bug in the system. She had me walk through it again, and when she asked me to go through it a fifth time I said no, I didn't get why. At that point she realized what it was - she had been pressing the blue button for Male the whole time.

I identify as gender non-conforming and masculine of center, and was assigned female at birth, so to her I appeared male. The scanner kept signaling about my breasts in two evenly spaced yellow boxes. When she heard my high pitched voice, she started apologizing. I realized that every time I had ever failed the TSA checkpoints was because of arbitrary decisions that TSA agents made about my gender identity and the way body scanners were set up. TSA didn't keep me safe, it just humiliated me for the last 6 years.

That’s why I believe we need to #RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants."

Sahar Shafqat, 44 (Washington DC)

Sahar Shafqat, 44 (Washington DC)

"When I was on my way to India with Sapna, my wife, we received boarding passes with a quadruple S (SSSS) security code. I had received that code before, so we knew: it’s going to be one of those security experiences. A TSA agent opened up a security line just for us. Each of us needed to go through the security x-ray machine alone, and we could not stand near each other. That was very isolating. I could see my wife, Sapna, being physically checked very thoroughly, and then her belongings checked very thoroughly. This is somebody who is my life partner, who I love, who I’m very protective of. And I watched her privacy and her person being violated, and I was helpless. I couldn’t do anything about it, because in this system, this is the way she’s supposed to be treated.

Then it was my turn. Sapna was clearly very upset, very angry and very shaken. I ask her if she’s okay and shesays yes, but not very convincingly. A female agent starts doing a pat-down on me, but it’s not like a pat-down you’ve ever experienced. It’s very invasive - really being touched in an intimate way. It’s not just about checking your pockets, it’s really going all the way up the inside of your leg to your pelvis. She said “I’m going to take my hand all the way up until I can’t go anymore,” and that’s really what it was. Even my short hair was manually checked with the TSA agent using her gloved hands and fingers, adding to the humiliation.

All of our belongings were assumed to be suspect - it was presumption of guilt, and the burden was on us to prove otherwise. I had a computer that had to be turned on. Every single item was individually checked - forexample, every single credit card inside my wallet was pulled out and manually checked. That was how invasive the check was. For brown and black people in America, our bodies are constructed as dangerous, as almost superhuman. The idea that we are strange beings that can somehow evade the normal screening process is racist. The thought is that I must be hiding some explosives in my computer or in some orifice of mine, just because I’m brown and traveling to Pakistan. That’s where I’m from. And that’s probably what’s got us on the list, because we go frequently. Pakistan is another home for us.

That is why I believe that we need to #RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants."

Maya Jafer, 46 (Satrang LA)

Maya Jafer, 46 (Satrang LA)

“I was born and raised in the south of India in Madurai, Tamil Nadu with my parents, older brother and younger sister. I was born into a very religious Muslim family. My parents gave me the name Mohammed Gulam Hussain though now, as a post-operative transsexual female, I am Maya Jafer.

My journey to the US began in 2000, at the age of 30, when I moved to Seattle on a F-1 student visa to complete my second doctorate in Natural Medicine. The past decade has been a tremendous struggle for me. Though I entered this country legally, I faced intense discrimination as a Muslim in the post 9/11-world. My last name – Hussain – did not help and I often dealt with interrogations concerning my perceived (and false) association with Saddam Hussein. I often wished for stronger protections against this profiling and discrimination in immigration and law enforcement. 

In the 10 years it took me to become a US citizen, I faced financial hardship, dozens of interviews, and lived in constant fear of deportation. Despite being a highly skilled, in-demand worker as a doctor, the process was nothing short of painful. By the time I got my citizenship and gave up my Indian citizenship, I was traumatized by the US system.

That is why I believe we need to #RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants.”

Alina Bee, 26 (Satrang LA)

Alina Bee, 26 (Satrang LA)

“Abbu was always frustrated by my shalwared prancing. He said they made me look unprofessional and no one would take me seriously in the world. Much to his chagrin, I've just about made a uniform of them and the TSA takes me very seriously.

One particular instance sticks out and it happened to be when the both of us were traveling together. Security at LAX was exceptionally interested in my shalwar and dupatta, despite the body scanner coming back with nothing but intricate sindhi patterns weaved across yards of linen. Maybe that was it, they just wanted to grasp the cultures and stories that lay in the threads.

So after the scanner told them nothing, a TSA agent took it upon herself to dig deeper and proceeded to scrunch and shake my shalwar in hopes that a frayed edge might unravel and they could piece together the puzzle in their minds. When that gave them nothing, they took my dupatta and shook it out. Still nothing. So they reached higher and patted down my hair--which only prickled and frizzed in response.

After exhausting all their attempts to fit me in the picture they had pre-developed, they let me go and I huffed my way to the gate. This experience was nothing remotely close to the scrutiny and intimidation faced by many of my colleagues, friends, family members--but this was a microcosm of the 'safety' systems that interrogate and deem our bodies unsafe or threatening.

That is why I believe we need to #RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants.”

Sasha, 26 (NQAPIA)

Sasha, 26 (NQAPIA)

“The last time I flew to New York City, I was stopped by TSA, which is a regular occurrence. This time though, for reasons I can't explain, I was led away from the security checkpoint and into a room: a tiny storage closet with blocked out windows.

The only sign in the room was a piece of paper saying that any kind of recording is prohibited. I was trying and failing to stay calm, alone with two TSA agents in a tiny space where nobody could see inside. I felt like anything could happen to me, and nobody would know.

In the end, nothing out of the ordinary happened. They thoroughly patted me down just like every other time. I don't know why they felt the need to take me away from the LAX crowds, into a special room. But I do know that because of my queer, gender non-conforming, South Asian body - I was seen as a threat.

It’s these experiences that lead me to organize in queer and trans* API and South Asian communities, and to organize in solidarity with all Black and brown people, until we all get free.

That is why I believe that we need to #RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants.”

Fa'afetai Alofa

Fa'afetai Alofa

"I remember the moment the undercover cop pulled out his badge and told me I was going to be arrested. I experienced a mix of things; shock, self disgust, disbelief, shame, and an overwhelming numbness.

As a Samoan trans woman, at the age of 23, just a few months after completing my bachelors degree, I was arrested for prostitution.  

It wasn’t long until a few other undercover cops made themselves known, and within seconds I was in a van, alone, with 5 cops. As I was checked into the holding facility a male cop was assigned to pat me down. He misgendered me and asked that I remove my bra. This terrified me for so many reasons, but mainly because my bra was such a huge part of what affirmed my femininity for me. Thankfully a female cop noticed I was uncomfortable with that request and told me I could leave it on. As I waited for my sister to bail me out, I sat in a cell for an hour, without anything but four walls, silence, and my self-hating thoughts to keep me company.

Sex workers pose a very low risk to society. We are not murderers, or thieves, or drug dealers, yet police departments dedicate whole sting operations to criminalizing us for trying to survive in a system that forces us into sex work.

We need to #redefinesecurity so the most disenfranchised in society aren’t being targeted by the system. We get enough of that from the people who actually pose a threat to society: the ones who harass trans women of color and follow through with killing us.

Target them.”

#RedefineSecurity #StopProfilingImmigrants