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New Zine Aims to Empower Undocumented Asian Women

Members from Revolutionizing Asian American Immigrant Stories on the East Coast (RAISE) and Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) have launched the first-ever zine by and about undocumented Asian women: AMPLIFYHER.

The zine, currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo, aims to provide a platform for undocumented voices to be heard and shared, as well as tackle the “model minority myth” often attributed to Asian Americans.

“I think two of the biggest misperceptions of undocumented women in the Asian diaspora is that we don’t exist and that we don’t organize,” Angel Sutjipto, RAISE organizer and AMPLIFYHER editor, told NBC News. “These misperceptions stem from the stereotype of the ‘quiet, docile, submissive Asian women.’ Which, of course, is untrue.”

The editors of AMPLIFYHER — Sutjipto, along with Jenny Lee, Israt Audry, Sulgi Cho, and Manny Yusuf — describe themselves as “artists and organizers within the migrant rights movement.” RAISE has organized and participated in events including the annual Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference and Community Media in Action: Global Action Project, and DRUM has helped coordinate a series of hunger strikes involving asylum seekers in nine detention centers to demand an end to detention.

“This type of organizing work is not particularly ‘sexy’ or appealing to funders, journalists, or politicians, but it is work,” Sutjipto said. “It is work that is mostly undertaken by women.”

Sutjipto added that, when watching news outlets discuss immigration, she rarely sees interviews with undocumented Asian women who are also organizers.

Angel Sutjipto, Manny Yusuf, Sulgi Cho, Jenny Lee, and Israt Audry
AMPLIFY(HER) editors (left to right): Angel Sutjipto, Manny Yusuf, Sulgi Cho, Jenny Lee, and Israt Audry. Courtesy of Angel Sutjipto

Although undocumented immigrants are growing in the mainstream discussion on immigration, being vocal about one’s undocumented status is still a major challenge, Sutjipto said. “There’s a lot of shame when people are not able to meet these socioeconomic expectations or fail to integrate into U.S. society, for example, by not having the right papers,” she said.

Sutjipto described this struggle to speak up as being caught between the model minority myth and "the American dream," where Asians in America are assumed to have an easier pathway to success. But in reality, Sutjipto said, undocumented Asians don’t have the full legal opportunity to purse their dreams in America; and being open about their status often puts them at risk physically, socially, and mentally.

“A lot of folks from the Asian diaspora do not feel safe or comfortable talking about their status,” Sutjipto said. “I say ‘safe’ because we all want to feel accepted by our peers. And I don’t just mean immigration status, I also mean economic status, our gender and/or sexual identities, and our physical and mental health struggles.”

In addition to empowering folks to “break the silence,” the AMPLIFYHER editors say they intend on distributing the zine as an educational tool to high schools, immigrant rights organizations, and community members.

“In some ways, it’s as if we are creating this zine for our younger self and others who are going through this,” Sutjipto said, “to say to them: ‘You are not alone in this. You will get through this.’”

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