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End Prison to ICE Collaboration

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, migrant detention camps, and deportations continue to sweep the nation. While CA and other states have limited some involvement with ICE, California's state prison system continues to actively cooperate with the ICE.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), California’s state prison system, readily responds to ICE’s detainer requests, a key tool for ICE to communicate with CDCR. Because of this collaboration, after serving years in state prison, instead of returning to their families, immigrants who are found suitable for parole are directly transferred into ICE jails that are fraught with inhumane abuse and with little access to legal representation.

Tith Ton is one such detainee. Tith is a substance abuse counselor in San Quentin, genocide survivor, valued community member, and beloved son who will be at risk of deportation this November. After serving 22 years in prison, Tith earned parole in his first hearing and proved that he is not a threat to society. On his release date, California plans to work with ICE and turn him over for deportation to a country he fled as a young child.

Sign the petition: Urge Governor Newsom to end California’s collaboration with ICE.

Tith was born in a labor camp in Battambang, Cambodia during a U.S.-backed genocide of the Cambodian people. Tith's family was granted refugee status in the United States in 1981, but they were only able to live in America's poorest and most volatile neighborhoods, with conditions mirroring those of the war-torn country they'd escaped. In Cambodia, Tith survived a genocide that killed a third of the country including much of his family. In Fresno, Tith lost his uncle to a gang shooting, was shot in a driveby, held his friend after he was gunned down, and watched two people get killed at a picnic.

At 14, Tith joined a gang and numbed himself with alcohol hoping to feel safe but lived in fear that every moment was his last. At 16, Tith killed a rival gang member. He’d be charged as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. While serving time, Tith truly turned his life around. He received his GED, took college classes, and became a licensed substance abuse counselor. Tith mentors other prisoners, facilitates classes in San Quentin’s Ethnic Studies classes, and actively provides for his family while inside.

Now, upon his release, the state of California plans to turn Tith over to ICE, to be deported to a country he's never known as home.

Tith is one of 11,000 incarcerated people in California who have served prison time only to face additional punishment through ICE detention and deportation.

California must end the collaboration between CDCR and ICE! When Tith is released from CDCR, the Governor has the power to intervene and stop ICE from taking Tith into their custody.

Sign the petition:Urge Governor Newsom to end the CDCR collaboration with ICE and this cycle of double punishment!

Participating Organizations:

  • American Friends Service Committee

  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus

  • Asian Prisoner Support Committee

  • California Coalition for Women Prisoners

  • California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance

  • Communities United Against Violence

  • Daily Kos

  • Freedom for Immigrants

  • Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity

  • Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County

  • Kehilla Community Synagogue

  • Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

  • Public Health Justice Collective


Image: Tith Ton and Dr. Davida Coady who trained him to be a substance abuse counselor.

Image: Tith Ton and Dr. Davida Coady who trained him to be a substance abuse counselor.

Image: Tith Ton meeting Comedian W. Kamau Bell at an event at San Quentin State Prison. Borey “Peejay” Ai (left), W. Kamau Bell (center), Tith Ton (right).

Image: Tith Ton meeting Comedian W. Kamau Bell at an event at San Quentin State Prison. Borey “Peejay” Ai (left), W. Kamau Bell (center), Tith Ton (right).



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Todd “Hyung-Rae” Tarselli has been in prison for over 27 years. He was sentenced to life without possibility of parole for a crime he committed when he was 17 years old. Born in South Korea, Hyung-Rae’s parents died when he was just a child. At the age of 5, he entered an orphanage, where his birthdate was inaccurately recorded as 6-years old, due to a mistake in interpreting cultural age-counting. Korean culture considers a child 1-year old on the day of birth while the U.S. does not. This cultural difference in counting age was not properly accounted for during his adoption. Hyung-Rae was adopted by an American family in 1980 and struggled to adjust to the new culture, family, environment, and community. In 1992, he pled guilty to a robbery and murder. Because of the age counting error, Hyung-Rae was listed as 18 years old and charged as an adult, which severely impacted his life sentence in Pennsylvania.

Incarcerated for nearly three decades, Hyung-Rae has endured some of the nation’s harshest prison conditions--including 10 years in solitary confinement (Pennsylvania’s “control units”). Despite his struggles, Hyung-Rae has developed into a prolific artist, a mentor to his peers, and a staunch supporter for social justice movements within the prison system and beyond. Hyung-Rae has a wide network of supporters, trade skills, a G.E.D., and community-based organizations that will assist him upon his re-entry. While in prison, Hyung-Rae underwent a personal transformation and does not pose a threat to society. APSC is supporting Hyung-Rae on his court hearing process regarding his age, which could determine if he will ever be set free. Thank you for those of you who attended a hearing and helped spread the word!

“I came to prison when I was 17 years old to serve a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. I had to grow up fast and mature in a dehumanizing environment. After nearly 3 decades in prison, what has always inspired me, and still does today, are the many examples of men and women who refuse to become indoctrinated into the prison culture of violence and apathy. Prisons are a dehumanizing and brutal place that leaves little room for rehabilitation or self-improvement, and, it is nearly impossible to maintain your own sense of self and humanity. Yet, there are countless examples of people who rise above prison and not only better themselves but also others around them. It is the undying human spirit that wants to become better, to do better. I have discovered in the most unlikely of places what it means to have a sense of self, to maintain your own humanity and find the strength to rise above the madness.”  – Todd “Hyung-Rae” Tarselli

Hyung-Rae’s artwork has been prominently featured in the following books, films, and community events:

-        “Other: an API Prisoners’ Anthology,” forward by Helen Zia and edited/compiled by the Asian Prisoner Support Committee.

-       “Reframing Transracial Adoption: Adopted Koreans, White Parents, and the Politics of Kinship,” by Kristi Brian, Temple University Press.

-       Cover art for “Maximum Lockdown,” by Lorna Rhodes

-       Cover art for the American Journal of Public Health, Vol 95, No. 10

-       “Breathin’: the Eddy Zheng Story,” an award-winning documentary that aired on public television.