CAPAC Members Demand End to Detention, Deportation of Southeast Asian Refugees

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WASHINGTON — Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), CAPAC Immigration Task Force chair, on Dec. 19 led 53 members of Congress in sending a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen demanding an end to the detention and deportation of Southeast Asian refugees and families.

“We are concerned that the recent retaliatory visa sanctions from the Trump Administration pressuring Cambodia and Laos to accept deported people have propelled these mass detentions and deportations. Additionally, we are also concerned that the administration’s reinterpretation of the 2008 bilateral agreement between the United States and Vietnam will also lead to increased detentions and deportations of Vietnamese Americans,” said the members.

“It is troubling to see Southeast Asian American families being targeted at unprecedented levels. We urge you to reexamine policies on the arbitrary detention and deportation of Southeast Asian Americans who prove no threat to public safety, are interwoven into our communities, and support U.S. citizen families. We urge you to use prosecutorial discretion to ensure that our finite resources are not being wasted to tear families apart and deport individuals who have transformed their lives after serving their sentences.”

The members requested a briefing with Nielsen no later than Dec. 27.

The full letter:

“We write to express our deep concern about the detention and deportation of Southeast Asian refugees from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In recent years, we have seen a spike in the arbitrary detention and removal of lawful permanent residents who came to the United States as refugees fleeing the violence and genocide from the Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge genocide. We urge you to cease detentions and deportations of refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

“Many of those impacted were born in refugee camps and have never set foot in the countries to which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is trying to remove them. Upon arrival into the United States, many were resettled into struggling neighborhoods. Still coping with significant trauma from the war, some of these refugees made mistakes as teenagers and young adults and were funneled into the criminal justice system.

“All of them served their time, and the majority transformed their lives to become productive community members, business owners, and loving parents supporting their U.S citizen families. They have checked in dutifully with ICE, some for decades, only now to be suddenly arrested, detained, and deported.

“We are concerned that the recent retaliatory visa sanctions from the Trump Administration pressuring Cambodia and Laos to accept deported people have propelled these mass detentions and deportations. Additionally, we are also concerned that the administration’s reinterpretation of the 2008 bilateral agreement between the United States and Vietnam will also lead to increased detentions and deportations of Vietnamese Americans.

“The biggest round-up of Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants for deportation took place in 2017. Cambodia is currently on target to see record-breaking deportation numbers in 2018.

“It is troubling to see Southeast Asian American families being targeted at unprecedented levels. We urge you to re-examine policies on the arbitrary detention and deportation of Southeast Asian Americans who prove no threat to public safety, are interwoven into our communities, and support U.S. citizen families. We urge you to use prosecutorial discretion to ensure that our finite resources are not being wasted to tear families apart and deport individuals who have transformed their lives after serving their sentences.

“Further, we request that you set up a briefing on your discussions with Vietnam, in particular to provide information on any deal with Vietnam to accept deported refugees.”

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