From Maxwell Perspective...

Policy Is the Be-All and End-All

Chia-Chia Wang ‘00 MA (IR)
American Friends Service Committee

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Chia-Chia Wang
Chia-Chia Wang in October, moderating a panel with New Jersey law enforcement on the treatment of immigrants

Last year, in October, Chia-Chia Wang led a vigil by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) at the sheriff’s office in Freehold Township, New Jersey. The group was protesting the treatment of immigrants, demanding “dignity, not detention.” Earlier, in June, Wang had brought a group of children of deportees to testify before their members of Congress. “They shared details of their lives and painful experience in the current broken system,” Wang recalls. “The lawmakers were touched, and some signed on to legislation we asked for.”

AFSC is a Quaker organization, embracing members of all faiths, and promoting service, development, and peace programs globally. It was the first NGO to be honored, in the name of all Quakers, with a Nobel Peace Prize. As the civic participation coordinator of AFSC’s Immigrant Rights Program, Wang supervises community organizers who work with immigrant organizations in New Jersey, helping their leaders become effective voices for their cause. And she works with children and youth affected by the detention and deportation of their parents.

“You have to be patient but relentless.”“Quakers like to talk about ‘journeys,’” says Wang, “and working with them has been a journey for me, leading to an understanding of their beliefs and methods. They are pacifists, but at the same time, activists, with nonviolence and dialogue as their methodology. I’ve come to understand the soundness of those methods when I see their positive results.”

But the downside lies in having to compromise with reality — with entrenched, often hostile, attitudes. “You have to be patient but relentless,” she says, “and every small gain is encouraging. Knowing that someone doesn’t feel afraid anymore, or seeing a change in someone’s attitudes, or having an impact on legislation — these are sources of great satisfaction.”

Wang’s first professional challenges came during her four years as an outreach coordinator with the Children’s Defense Fund, where she focused on the issues of health care access and public benefits for low-income children and families in New York. These concerns marked the beginning of a focus on immigrants’ rights.

“I had found my niche, which is working on advocacy and campaign building,” Wang says. “Policy, after all, is what changes and improves the lot of those who live in poverty with no rights and no dignity.”

— Tom Raynor

Tom Raynor is a freelance writer based in Syracuse. He holds an MIA from Columbia University.
This article appeared in the fall 2010 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2010 Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.