By Gabi Wy
An abused Cambodian refugee is enjoying her first weeks of freedom after serving 16 years in prison for murder.
Ny Nourn is now on parole by the state of California indefinitely. She’s been granted protection from deportation by a judge, but ICE is appealing the November 9 decision to release her.
For now, she’s released on bond and walks free.
“I walked out of the Yuba County Jail as a free person for the first time in sixteen years,” Nourn wrote in a statement released by the Asian Law Caucus. “At twenty, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole – a death in prison sentence. With a deportation hold on top of that, hope that I’d ever rejoin my community in California was slim. Prison walls make it even harder to protect what little hope we have by isolating us from our community outside.”
Nourn thanked her “heroes” at the Asian Law Caucus for fighting for her freedom and everyone who supported her throughout her incarceration.
Her public story started in 2003 when she was convicted for her role in a murder organized by Ron Barker, her abusive boyfriend. Barker threatened Nourn and forced her to participate in a plot to murder Nourn’s boss and previous boyfriend. After serving her sentence for murder, she was released and immediately detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.
She garnered social media attention throughout her imprisonment, and Anoop Prasad, a staff attorney at the ALC, said that’s made a difference.
“It’s been really nice to see the amount of community support (Nourn) has,” Prasad said. “Her last court hearings have been full of supporters with people even waiting outside. That’s something the judge definitely noticed.”
Social media supporters raised money for her bond.
“The things we’re highlighting beyond her individual story is that this is a part of a larger trend of violence and sexual assault,” Prasad said to AsAmNews. “She has said that she didn’t meet anyone in prison who wasn’t a victim of sexual assault…her story is also that this is the pattern for refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam and Laos…there’s a really high likelihood that they’ll be incarcerated or deported.”
As for ICE’s attempt to appeal Nourn’s deportation protection, Prasad said the Asian Law Caucus believes ICE’s success is unlikely.
“In court, we didn’t really see any evidence to support her being deported,” he said. “It’s frustrating that ICE is pursuing appeal, but we’re still feeling optimistic about her chances.”
ICE did not respond with comment in time for publication.
Prasad said there’s no set timeline for the appeal as the briefing has not been submitted yet. He expects that process to kick off in the next several months.
The appeal and even Nourn’s prison sentence haven’t stopped her from working towards her goals, Prasad said.
“She became a certified substance abuse counselor in prison,” he said. “She was working towards becoming a domestic violence counselor. Hopefully now that she’s free she’ll continue her training.”
In the meantime, Nourn requests people who want to support her to sign a petition calling on ICE to stop arresting Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees.
She also asks that her supporters show the same sympathy to her fellow inmate Kelly Savage, who is incarcerated “for a murder committed by her abusive partner,” linking to another petition.
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