David Wong cleared of false charge, but faces deportation

Share with your friends


1986: An inmate named Tyrone Julius is stabbed to death in Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

1987: Non-English-speaking prisoner David Wong, an undocumented Chinese immigrant serving time for robbery, is convicted of the murder despite a lack of motive or any supporting physical evidence and is sentenced to 25 years to life.

2004: After a 14-year campaign to win Wong’s freedom, his conviction is overturned. The government offers no apology (let alone reparations) for caging him unjustly for nearly two decades.

2005: Wong, now 42 years old, is still behind bars, awaiting deportation to China at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility. If deported, David can look forward to a new life in a country he is no longer familiar with, where he has no network of friends or family to support him.

The current admini’s dedication to cultivating strong anti-immigrant sentiments is epitomized by “Homeland Security.” Immigration is now synonymous with a lack of security. David’s immigration status initially made him an easy target of a prison in need of a quick fix for its incompetence. Today, the same anti-immigrant sentiment justifies David’s continued imprisonment, disregarding his exoneration.

The greatest difficulty in David’s case was never in proving his innocence. The evidence has always been there: collusion between court and prison officials, falsified testimony, missing pages from the Bureau of Criminal Investigations report, prison guards threatening and beating David in an effort to repress his efforts to seek outside help, and testimony by several inmates affirming his innocence.

The challenge was to convince the government and the public that a prison murder case was worth reviewing and that the innocence of a poor “illegal” Asian immigrant and felon was worth supporting.

Through dedicated, persistent grassroots organizing, widespread outreach, and broad-based coalition-building, the David Wong Support Committee managed to penetrate mainstream media and build a national support base pushing David’s struggle to the next level.

Not an easy task at a time when middle-class values and self-involved identity politics are paralyzing the Asian American “move” But, through its adherence to a revolutionary internationalist perspective, the DWSC created a successful model and building block for a deeper, more cohesive Asian American involvement in the prison reform movement.

For the growing population of politically conscious Asian Americans, a victory employing such methods proves that assimilation and inside-out reform are not the only means of effecting change. It shows that people can successfully wage war against a system that values its own perpetuation above justice and human needs.

David’s detention is an inhumane continuation of the long campaign to scapegoat him. The DWSC is asking supporters to urge Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release him pending deportation. For more information, please visit www.freedavidwong.org.

Guest writer Siddhartha Joag, a New York-based visual artist and member of the David Wong Support Committee, lives in Queens and works with at-risk youth. He can be reached at siddjoag @ yahoo.com.

Share with your friends