August 8, 2011; Source: Falls Church Patch | More than a year ago, a 19-year-old Vietnamese American woman named Vanessa Pham was murdered in Northern Virginia. To this day, Fairfax County police continue to puzzle over the crime. Earlier this month, the Voice of Vietnamese Americans (VVA), a Virginia-based nonprofit, organized an event to raise awareness about Pham’s case and to promote crime prevention among Fairfax County’s largest minority group.
VVA’s Asian American Advocacy and Resource Day was the first of its kind and brought together members of the Vietnamese American community, law enforcement officials, and more than a half-dozen elected officials. Participants discussed crime, redistricting, education and other issues pertinent to the Asian American community.
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VVA’s partnership with law enforcement stands out at a time of growing distrust between immigrants and law enforcement officials due to a wave of stringent new immigration laws. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that in the first half of 2011, state legislators around the country introduced 1,592 immigration bills and resolutions, a 16 percent increase over the first half of 2010. Not all of these bills have to do with law enforcement, but those that do such as the ones passed in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have garnered much attention and succeeded in instilling fear among immigrant communities.
One speaker at the Advocacy and Resource Day was Tony Pham (no relation to Vanessa Pham, the woman who was murdered). He is the general counsel of the Richmond City Sheriff’s office and himself a Vietnamese American. He stressed the importance of events such as these in keeping lines of communication open between immigrant communities and law enforcement officials: “This is an opportunity to bridge that gap of communication between law enforcement and the general community that is desperately needed.”—Erwin de Leon