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Re:Work: [No] Child Left Behind, the School to Prison Pipeline

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We often see children as innocents who need love, support, and stability. But not all young people are nurtured this way. Too often youth from marginalized communities of color are not seen as needing protection — they are treated as the ones we need protection from. We see this in this episode, brought to us from Re:Work Radio, with Phal Sok, who was once a kid in Long Beach forced to grow up too soon.

Transcript below.


  • Phal Sok, Youth Justice Coalition


  • Re:Work Radio Staff : Veena Hampapur, Saba Waheed, Pam Gwen, and Amy Zhou. Editing by Veena Hampapur and D’Angelo Jones.
  • Making Contact Staff Producers: Monica Lopez, Anita Johnson, Salima Hamirani
  • Executive Director: Sonya Green
  • Director of Production Initiatives and Distribution: Lisa Rudman
  • Transcription Volunteer: Carol Maddox


  • Casual Desire – Gonna Onyekwe
  • Portal Trip – Asher Fulero
  • Easy Trip Trap – The Brothers Records
  • Heartbeat of the Hood – Doug Maxwell/Media Rights Productions
  • Things are Going Southampton – Verified Picasso
  • OB1 – Ralph Real
  • Spookster – Wayne Jones
  • Gaia in Fog – Dan Bodan
  • Stars and Constellations – Sarah, The Illstrumentalist
  • Alien 1963 – Ramzoid
  • Sailing – Anno Domini Beats


Phal Sok: ….Some of the proposed solutions that’s come out from the grassroots level…

Salima Hamirani: You’re listening to Making Contact. Welcome to this week’s Making Contact. I’m Salima Hamirani. And today we bring you the story of Phal Sok. This piece comes to us from the Re:Work podcast from the UCLA Labor Center.

We wanted to air this piece because it highlights so many of the issues we care about here at  Making Contact, namely the school to prison pipeline and the vulnerability of immigrants as they face deportation. Here’s Re:Work and their piece: No Child Left Behind.


Phal Sok: I’m a product of violence, a product of state violence, of the violence that’s perpetuated by American policies.


Saba Waheed: From the UCLA Labor Center and KPFA, this is Re:Work. I am Saba Wahid.


Veena Hampapur: And I’m Veena Hampapur.  What comes to mind when you hear the word teenager, juvenile, child? To quote Whitney Houston, we often believe that children are our future. A symbol of hope for a better tomorrow. We see them as innocents who need love, support and stability. But not all young people are nurtured this way. Too often, youth from marginalized communities of color are not seen as needing protection. They are treated as the ones we need protection from.


Saba Waheed: We see this in today’s episode with Phal Sok, who was once a kid in Long Beach forced to grow up too soon. This episode is part two of our series on Cambodian refugees who get caught up in the criminal justice system at a young age.


Phal Sok: My name is Phal Sok. I’m Cambodian by ethnicity, but born in the Thai refugee camps. My dad and my brother were living in Cambodia during the time of the Vietnam War. After the Khmer Rouge took power my dad, my brother wound up in forced labor camps, reeducation camps. They had seen a lot of different things happen, you know, just a lot of murders and torture, crimes against humanity, things of that magnitude.


Veena Hampapur: During the Vietnam War, the U.S. enacted a brutal bombing campaign against Cambodia. Fearing for their lives, tens of thousands of civilians fled to Thailand, including Paul’s father and 18 year old brother. T.


Phal Sok: They just ended up in the U.N. camps, and that is where my dad and my mom actually met. If we look at it from that perspective, if not for the war, I would not be born. I was born after they had already been approved for asilee status in the United States. My family went into a staging camp for where you would travel out. So I was born there. 61 days later, we were in LAX. And so that’s when I arrived to the U.S. as a child of a refugee. Our family unit was me, my mom, my dad and my brother.


Saba Waheed: The transition to life in Southern California in the 80s just wasn’t that easy.


Phal Sok: My parents end up divorcing due to a lot of the issues of just trying to adapt to a new environment. Shortly after the divorce, we ended up moving. My dad felt very uncomfortable in L.A. He said there weren’t a lot of Cambodians and he found that there were pockets of Cambodians that had settled in Long Beach.


Veena Hampapur: Paul’s family was part of a migration of refugees that moved to lower income neighborhoods in Long Beach. Today, Long Beach is home to the largest Cambodian population in the country.


Phal Sok: My dad felt more comfortable with neighbors that were Cambodian that he can go knock on their door and ask for something: “hey, I need some sugar”. When I needed something or in times of need or whatever, when I was younger, it was always folks in the Cambodia community that were there. I do remember like first day of school, like nobody walks you or anything you just follow the line, just try to figure out where you’re going. And I remember starting to cry. I was like five years old and like all kinds of white students walked by. Nobody did anything. And it was an older Cambodian student. She came through. She was the first one who grabbed my hand and like figured out where I was supposed to be at. Stuff like that kind of left a mark on me made me more comfortable being around other Cambodians. The embrace from a white community or a black community or brown community just wasn’t there.


Saba Waheed: Phal’s father worked long hours to provide financially and his older brother had moved out. As a child, Phal had to learn how to take care of himself.


Phal Sok: From the age of, I want to say seven or eight, I was basically coming home to nobody. So I had to learn how to cook, had to learn how to feed myself. And I always used to wonder where my dad was, and he was, you know, I’m out just trying to make money. When he was in the camps, he had been beaten in the back with some rifles and stuff like that. So we had a lot of injuries, physical trauma amongst, you know, emotional trauma, et cetera. What type of meaningful sustaining labor is there for folks like that? And so he would do like manual labor, whatever ge could do. He used to go out, collect cans and recycle as a means of income. My dad never drove, so he was always using public transit or he’d find a shopping cart to use. Those were my earliest memories of my dad.


Veena Hampapur: Neighborhood violence became a concern as Paul approached his teen years.


Phal Sok: I wanna say it was a lot of violence within the communities. I mean it came to a situation where, you know, I literally only walked a couple of miles back and forth between home and school where some of my friends only walked about a mile and some of my friends never made it home. That was the type of violence that was brewing inside the communities. Then in my teen years, it became more of cops drawing down on us and pointing guns at us, telling us to get up on the wall and, you know, searching us and things like that going through our backpacks. It became more of a regular occurrence. There was just us in the neighborhoods just hanging out, like in the front yard where we knew we’d be safe. Sometimes helicopters would be coming by. And the next thing you know, here comes police showing up, like blocking off both sides of the street. And then just finding everybody that’s young, that’s Asian and telling us all to sit on the curb, sometimes five or six of us, sometimes just ten or twelve of us.


Veena Hampapur: Paul and his friends were not being protected from danger. They were being treated like they WERE the danger.


Phal Sok: For a lot of us growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. So a lot of our clothes were hand me downs, so it would look baggy. And, you know, out there like a young person walk around in baggy clothing, you know, you’re getting profiled as a certain way. Didn’t matter if your backpack was full of books. You know, you’re just walking home. That’s all they saw. They were putting us on cop cars on top of the hood. Sometimes it would get really bad. There were instances where people were being put in the back of a police car, not even being arrested or anything. And then a cop car would drop them off in the alley somewhere and just like tell em: get out of the car. And the cop car, would just drive off, leaving these people in danger, it just became more and more frequent.


Saba Waheed: Policing youth of color was nothing new. But what changed in the 1990s was that politicians and media fostered a sense of crisis. This contributed to surveilling and criminalizing low level offenses that had not been punished in the past.


HIllary Clinton: They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called super predators. No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way. But first we have to bring them to heel. And the president has asked the FBI to launch a very concerted effort against gangs everywhere.


Veena Hampapur: The systems used minor infractions to build criminal records, pushing youth into the criminal justice system even before a serious crime was committed. When it came to youth from marginalized communities, punishment trumped care.


Phal Sok: Because they always asking. Who are you? What’s your name? Where do you live? What’s your address? And so it leads me to assume, like all of us at some point got put into a gang database. There wasn’t any opportunity to really process those interactions. We just kind of had to deal with them, just accept them for what they were. If I went to go tell my brother about it, he’d be like well, what did you do wrong? If I went and told my dad about it, he’d be like well, what did you do wrong? If we went to the school and we said it, you know, then the school would just kind of look at us sideways. And so when we’d have these encounters with law enforcement, you know, all the adults around us are thinking we did something wrong. I kind of felt secluded. They never saw these encounters for what they were. So I had to just like kind of suck it up. As a young person, it’s very, like traumatizing. It carried through with me as I got a little bit older, too.


Saba Waheed: Then in high school, Paul’s father became ill.


Phal Sok: I had to rush home or had to find a means of somebody to drive me home because he needed daily care. I would come home from school, go get the heparin, had to go get a syringe, had to check his Jevity and his feeding bag. Make sure the machine was running. No alarms or anything like that. Check his weight. Make sure his catheter was clean, etc., right? And making sure the supplies are there. Kept me secluded. Kept me isolated and not really having anybody else to hang out with. I didn’t have any siblings that were my age, I didn’t have any peers.


Veena Hampapur: Paul took care of his dad this way for over a year. One day he got a call from the hospital.


Phal Sok: My dad had passed away. Some of the last words from him weren’t the greatest of words to me, kind of yelled at me, blamed me for being sick. Stuff like that. So I had to process all of that real fast or try to process it and deal with losing him.


Saba Waheed: Paul was just 16 years old and now he was completely on his own.


Phal Sok: And nobody came to check up on me. Nobody from social services showed up. There wasn’t a youth center I could go to. There wasn’t a grief counselor. You know, I would’ve walked two, three miles to see somebody, say: what do I do now? The only thing I got was a pamphlet from the hospital that said, hey, this is grief. I read it, didn’t understand it, had never dealt with grief before. So I didn’t know what grief was. I needed somebody to like, tell me, give me that understanding. I went to school and I was like, my dad’s just died. And teachers were like, oh, that sucks. But it wasn’t like, oh, wait, hold on. Really? Who are you living with? Like, who’s taking care of you now?


Veena Hampapur: Paul had been an engaged student with a knack for electronics.


Phal Sok: Which is like a natural skill or aptitude I have. My dad would just buy me like soldering irons, solder and just give me stuff, like I would find broken stuff or in some cases I would have working stuff that I would break it to learn how it worked. I was enrolled in Poly High School, but I was also enrolled in a Cal State program. It was a dual program, so I was getting Cal State credits while I was working towards my high school diploma at the same time. So it was a program that was set up for me to be able to get into the field of electrical engineering. So like really going that route.


Veena Hampapur: His father’s death started to impact his education. He was struggling even in the Cal State program he loved.


Phal Sok: I tried to stay focused and tried to do some school work and tried to maintain the Cal State program. And only reason too is because when I was withdrawing, professor was like, look, there’s something unique about you. You have a talent. You have a skill. He pulled out this dot chart and there was one that was way above everybody else and said, that dot is you. That’s your score. Even though you’ve missed every single assignment except for one. There’s something about you. You have the ability to, like, work with this information I’m giving you. He’s like, whatever you do, come back to my class. I don’t care if you ditch the others, skip the rest. Whatever. Just don’t miss this class. So I tried. I tried. I tried. Became, you know, more and more difficult as it went by.


Saba Waheed: Paul realized he needed help, so he reached out to his high school counselor.


Phal Sok: So I went to go see a counselor. I said, hey, I’m really struggling. What do we do? While she was eating on a sandwich, she handed me a piece of paper, said sign here, turn in your books by the end of today and report to this packet school. Didn’t say, well, why aren’t you. Wait, hold on. Let’s talk about this. There was just. Here’s a slip. Sign it. Turn it in. And then when I went to the other school, that’s when I learned it was just a packet school. They literally copied exercises out of a textbook. The work was like very remedial. They gave me a card and they said, this card is what you showed to law enforcement when you have law enforcement contact. Didn’t say IF you get stopped, they said WHEN you get stopped by the police. That was like more of an important conversation than the curriculum itself.


Veena Hampapur: The whole system had failed, Phal. Social workers, teachers and counselors, they all missed the chance to provide him with resources. Rather than being a place of nurturing and growth, schools mirrored the surveillance and control he faced in the streets. Paul struggled coming home to an empty house.


Phal Sok: I would walk home and like my dad wasn’t there, right? Nobody was there. And I would just sit, being very bummed out, very depressed. I could only take so much depression, I would just leave the house. And so I just ended up in the streets. And the one thing I found is that the streets embraced me: and they said we got you man, we feel you, let’s just hang out, whatever. And so with that embrace, you know, it was very heartwarming. In a sense, it was helpful just to keep me emotionally stable. I would hang out, just trying to cope with forgetting about losing my dad. I hung out and I hung out more and more and more and with more hanging out I got involved with thefts and things of that nature, a lot of property crimes and stuff like that. At the age of 17 I ended up being arrested.  The arrest was very demeaning. It was like the sun was barely coming up, they put me up against a garage next to my house and started taking pictures of me handcuffed, students that I knew in the neighborhood were walking by, elders that were taking their kids to school.


Salima Hamirani: You were just listening to Making Contact and our adaptation of a podcast out of the UCLA Labor Center called Re:Work and their episode called “No Child Left Behind”. To find out more about Re:Work or to hear more of our podcasts or get updates on upcoming shows, visit  Now back to Phal Sok’s story.


Veena Hampapur: White and middle class youth who have run ins with the law are often treated as troubled kids who need help, receiving mental health counseling and guidance. This was not an option for Paul, despite being the product of generations of violence and trauma.


Phal Sok: At the age of 17 I ended up being arrested and sent to juvenile hall. So, like, I didn’t know what I was being charged with. I didn’t know what evidence. I didn’t know anything. Finally, I went to court and they just handed me some papers and said, here they want to send you to adult court. It was a matter of a 30 minute hearing. The fate of my life was decided by this. I’ve got the paperwork and I’m starting to read it and I’m trying to figure it out. And I start seeing the charges and then I start seeing how they add up all the years. I was like Oh, my God. I was looking at like 40 something years, I was like, man. I haven’t even been alive that long. I haven’t even been alive half of that time. At some point, somebody said, oh, you’re probably going to get deported. What are you talking about? So that was like the first ring of it I never like. Whatever. I was more confused with going to court rather than thinking about, like, my status here as an immigrant. So that came later on.


Saba Waheed: Paul never had a childhood, and when he was arrested, he was prosecuted as an adult in the 1990s. This became increasingly common in the courts due to the racist fears of growing youth crime. Even 13 year olds faced life sentences.


Phal Sok: When off I go to prison, I looked around and everybody was in their 30s or 40s you know everybody was like grown men. So I had to, like, really navigate this environment and just try to like, eh, who can I trust? What do I do here? Just trying to figure that out. So I had to learn how to just basically grow up in that environment. And as my birthdays went by I ended up spending all my 20s in there and then my thirties came around. I spent my 31st, my 32nd, my 34th, I was like wow, you know I still have quite a few more years to go. During that time, I started to like go to programs and start to like really do things, learn some law. Oddly enough, I started learning law because folks came to me with legal papers and they said, hey, can you help me understand this? I said, Why are you asking me? They said you’re young, you’ve probably been in school, you can probably read better English than I can, I don’t know any of this. I’ve been in prison, you know, in and out all my life. So I spent 14 years worth learning different aspects of law. I had to learn it on my own.


Veena Hampapur: After Paul’s family came to the United States as refugees, they became legal permanent residents. Despite having a green card. Paul was still vulnerable to deportation to a country he had never been to.


Phal Sok: After I went into prison, I was told that I would see a counselor and then a counselor would assign where I would go. This white lady came in and they called me out by name. So I went down there and they were like, do you have a green card? I was like, Yeah, my family came here, but I have a green card. And then she was like, well, you know, I’m with immigration. I was like Oh, OK. And then she was like, you’re probably gonna get deported. Other people in the building saw me and were like who was that? Man? You’re going somewhere already? Like, I’ve been here a year already. I’m like, no, that was. INS. They were like, oh, wait. What? I talked to other Cambodians, they were like, when you get out, they’re gonna come get you.


Phal Sok: And so from that conversation with the lady, she ended up filing a detainer. And the only reason she came to the prison to visit me was because when the state prison system receives somebody and brings them into the prison system, they come with some paperwork, and on the paperwork there’s a box that says “Citizenship” and whoever wrote this report wrote “unknown”, they called INS just to say and that triggered the requests.


Saba Waheed: This experience with immigration didn’t impact Paul until he had a chance for parole. In 2014. California’s Senate Bill 260 recognized that youth should not have been tried as adults. They could be released if they showed remorse and rehabilitation.


Phal Sok: I was one of the first ones to come. To make it through that very hard barrier, very high standards. But unfortunately, you know, in that conversation, they said, hey, you know what? You have this ICE hold. So I start looking at immigration law I start reading up. Kind of like deciphering backwards, deciphering just reading the cases from the federal courts or what they had ruled. Do I have an opportunity for relief? Am I really deportable? And I started looking. I’m like, oh my God, I’m like under mandatory deportation. I’ve been here all my life, didn’t matter, came here as refugees. None of that mattered. My only family is here. It didn’t matter. The fact that my brother, my sole remaining sibling, was a U.S. citizen didn’t matter. Like none of this mattered. When my release date came I saw a gentleman in a gray suit with a firearm walking in, getting my parole, like the papers that was supposed to be given to me to say report to this address is being given to this person. I end up being shackled. While I was being escorted out I was watching other people go home carrying their property. Ready to go out, go catch the bus or go meet their family outside the gate. People were happy. Here I go into the unknown. So I went to ICE, got the paperwork from them, got a notice to appear, got placed in detention. ICE wanted to deport me to Thailand. And I always said, well, you know, my parents were Cambodian, they’re like, aah whatever, you were born in Thailand.


Phal Sok: As soon as I take the order, they start processing me to go to Washington to go see the consulate, just to share a little bit about how much money ICE has to spend on enforcement, not looking at last year’s budget, but just this journey I had.


Veena Hampapur: Paul took a bus from Bakersfield to Fresno to Sacramento County jail.


Phal Sok: I’m like, wait, shouldn’t I be, like, flying? They’re like, no, you’re gonna be here. You’re gonna go to Sac county jail for tonight. They came back, put us on a bus, took us to the ICE building. Sit in a tank like, hey where are we going. You know, I’m suppose to be going to Washington. They’re like, no, you’re going to Arizona. They finally put us on a plane. This is the first time I’ve been on a plane that I have a working memory of. I had never been on a plane except for like coming from overseas. It’s a private charter flight full of U.S. marshals, they’re like, yeah, you’re going to San Diego first. Sure enough, this plane takes us, goes to San Diego and then it hops over to Arizona and it takes off from Arizona. We land in Denver, drops everybody off except for me, a Somalian and the other Cambodian. So it was just the three of us from Denver to Washington on a fully chartered 737. And so I was like dang this costs a lot of money, right? I see the consulate, consulate says we’re just here to gather data, information. We take that back to Cambodia. They’ll make the decision over there, whoever the decision makers are. He’s like here do your thumbprint in red for us. Go, stand up over there. Take your picture. That’ll be your passport picture if they do take you.  Went back and waited. Mind you, I’m always in, like, private facilities all this time. So I have this term like Deportation Inc. That’s what it really is.


Phal Sok: And on the journey back, it’s the same route, except it’s backwards. And finally, make it back to Bakersfield. And the ICE agent asked me, hey, what did they tell you? I said, eh you know, honestly, I don’t know. And then my six month mark was nearing. Next time I saw him again. I said, hey, man, my 100 day review is coming around a corner, you know? What are you gonna do? Are you gonna recommend to detain me or not, to continue? He said, nah man, I’m going to release you. Just give me a few days. One night he kept yelling my name. As soon as he saw me. He said eh, who’s getting you your ticket. I said you give me a date and a time, I will have somebody here to pick me up. He said tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. I was like: all right, you got it. In the morning, they pulled me out and then he said, you know, as soon as you land, go get your work permit. You see your deportation officer, check in. Show him that you’re doing good. Whatever. Stay out of trouble. And he was like, man, good luck to you. That was like the last time I ever saw him. So off I go.


Phal Sok: That was in March of 2016. That was my first time being outside of a confined environment ever as an adult. Was sitting on a planter on the curb just looking around like I don’t even know where I am. I don’t know what to do if my family didn’t show up. I don’t even know what to do. You know, I was like I was going to walk and carry this stuff over there to this restaurant, ask if I can use the phone. So it was just like kind of like playing out the scenarios. But sure enough, my brother came around the corner, my brother’s like you need I.D. because I didn’t have any I.D. and always people told me when you get out, you’re gonna need your I.D. because if you don’t your not gonna do anything out there, especially because you’re losing your status. It’s gonna be very difficult. So I end up going to the DMV. Sensory overload. With so much light and noise and people.  Mind you I had been in very monochrome environment for all that time. I’ve never heard helicopters. I didn’t hear dogs barking cars, the normal noises of life. Like I didn’t hear any of that for such a long time. So now I’m being bombarded with all this stuff like wait in line. Who’s your number? Take your ticket. Sign here. Move it. Get in that line.


Saba Waheed: Paul settled into South L.A. and became involved with volunteering and his local church. He was getting his life together and moving on.


Phal Sok: And then one day I had a letter in the mail that was from Homeland Security. Said: come, report, check in. I went and started asking around about this letter and everyone was like no every time we’ve seen it, it was always a re-detention. So that was a like very difficult. By the time I got this letter, it had been about three months and I was like, oh, man, dang, I got to go it’s my time. I’m like, well, at least I’ll be free over there, you know, liberty wise. And I won’t be looking over my shoulder like hiding from the law. Just knowing that deportation was coming at some point was like very brain wracking. A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of depression, just like having the ability to just get up everyday, was very challenging. Because I was always thinking about that. I became like very reclused, very quiet. I went to report. And sure enough, I got re-detained.


Veena Hampapur: Paul ended up in Orange County and awaited his deportation. His brother visited him. And now he also had a whole community of support.


Phal Sok: Folks from the church that I got plugged in with started showing up, the pastors were showing up, folks from the community were just showing up, people who i had just barely met. That didn’t even know me, and they were like, man, if you know how to do anything to stop your deportation. Do it. We’ll support you 100 percent of the way, like whatever we can do. Let us know. We want to see you here with us.


Veena Hampapur: When Paul’s plane didn’t arrive as scheduled, he filed paperwork challenging his deportation, all those years of studying law paid off. Paul got his case reopened.


Phal Sok: I asked for a bond hearing, got the bond hearing. The same folks from the community came. They filled up the courtroom, spoke up for me and the judge was like ok, I’m going to give you a $5,000 bond with an ankle monitor and I didn’t have any money. And so the folks that ultimately paid it were the folks that came to court. They did a little bit of fundraiser, eventually, the bond go paid and I came out last day of November of 2016. I walked back out again.


Veena Hampapur: Paul became involved in the fight for immigrant rights and the development of a justice fund to assist those facing deportation.


Phal Sok: When I went back to the community, I felt that same sense of panic, folks that I used to see in the communities I wasn’t seeing anymore. I wasn’t seeing the elotera that was down the street selling corn. Those are the faces that are missing, the paletero that was going around selling ice cream. I didn’t see these people anymore. I saw that same like people were hiding people. And I learned that it was that same fear that I saw in detention it was that same fear. Except now it was what you would say is the free world the liberated world? You could call it that, just free of physical confinement. That was out like really just challenging that narrative, like that dichotomy just because somebody wasn’t born here. They shouldn’t get a second chance, Right? Or a third chance, or a fourth chance that somebody who was born here would get. Why are people being treated any different? You know, it’s kind of this backwards way of thinking, right? Like we say, we’re a land of equality, but where is that equality? So, like, it takes immigrants to get involved to the fight for immigration. Right. But also takes migrants to also understand, like the narrative that: criminal. I’m not a criminal, is not the way to go. A lot of times I see young people, DACA students in particular that say we’re not criminals. I’m like, you know, you just threw me under the bus. You know, you also throw your parents under the bus because your parents violated the law when they came without inspection. Like, remember these things. Right. So to be mindful of that.


Saba Waheed: This work eventually connected Phal with the Youth Justice Coalition, an organization committed to challenging incarceration and discrimination.


Phal Sok: They were like, hey, why don’t you come check us out? Get involved. That’s what led me to be involved with the Youth Justice Coalition where I am now. Continuing to do a lot of more wide ranging work, now, besides immigration, they’re able to give me stipends, which were able to help sustain me. But then also the one thing that YJC did for me that nobody else did was they offered me their platform and they said, this is what we have access to. However, you want to use that to fight your deportation, it’s all yours. And basically what that platform I end up getting, you know, a lot of legislative support from every level, aside from the White House that pushed Governor Brown to give me a pardon. Folks from the community outpouring support. And so because of that work, I ended up getting a pardon in August of last year. So it’s been roughly a year. And so through that, I ended up going back to my next court date. Case was terminated. So now I have my residency restored.


Veena Hampapur: Now a YJC organizer, Phal embodies the community support, wisdom and guidance he needed growing up in Long Beach.


Phal Sok: Now the story still goes on, right? It doesn’t even end. And the work continues on. But for me, I think ultimately, though, my goal in this is to like really help people understand that, you know, when this country was founded, it wasn’t built for the benefit of people, the indigenous people. It wasn’t built for the benefit of anybody that was black or anybody that was brown. So, you know, these are the things that create a lot of the social factors. What causes people to end up in the systems that we end up in. And so those are the things that I try to work on, things I try to kind of flip that model. You know, if you’re going to invest in policing, also invest in our young people. One of our youth organizers, she always says if the youth are our future, why are you treating our youth this way? Like, why are the investments not there? Like, no one seems to know how to answer that. And so, you know, that’s the work that I do today. Now with Why DC?


Salima Hamirani: That does it for this edition of Making Contact. We want to thank the UCLA Labor Center and the Re:Work podcast to find out more information about them. You can visit our web site at

And we’d love to hear from you. What do you think about the link between poverty, immigration and the school to prison pipeline? Join the conversation on Facebook. Our Twitter handle is making_contact. And on Instagram, we’re makingcontactradioproject. Making Contact team includes Monica Lopez and Anita Johnson, Lisa Rudman, Sonya Green. And I’m Salima Hamirani. Thanks for listening to Making Contact.


Author: Radio Project

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