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Advancing Justice, SEARAC Call on Administration to Honor U.S.-Vietnam Repatriation Agreement

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reportedly meeting with Vietnamese government officials to discuss potentially drastic changes to the terms of an agreement that has governed the deportation of individuals to Vietnam since 2008.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), an affiliation of five civil rights organizations, and the Southeast Asia Resources Action Center (SEARAC) strongly oppose any changes to the agreement that would erode protections currently afforded to Vietnamese immigrants, including a provision that does not permit those who entered the U.S. before July 12, 1995 to be deported.

On Dec. 12, 15 community organizations and over 50 state and local elected officials from nine states joined Advancing Justice and SEARAC in sending letters to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, President Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging them to halt any changes to the agreement that would make “pre-95” immigrants subject to deportation or weaken any of the humanitarian considerations reflected in the agreement.

Modifications to the agreement could potentially make over 8,500 individuals immediately vulnerable to deportation. Many of these community members came to the U.S. as refugees, fleeing war and persecution, and have lived here peacefully for decades.

“For many years now, the repatriation agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam has afforded thousands of former Vietnamese refugees the opportunity to move past mistakes they’ve made and rebuild their lives in the country that they call home,” said Phi Nguyen, litigation director at Advancing Justice-Atlanta. “The agreement recognizes the inhumanity of forcing refugees to return to a country that they fled many years ago in the aftermath of a U.S.-backed war. Our government should not turn its back now on the very people it felt a responsibility to take in.”

“America is my home now. All my family is here. My life is here. I hope that the U.S. government will act with honor and compassion — not just for myself but for the thousands of others who are in the same situation as me,” said Dai Diep, who came to the U.S. as a refugee in May 1995.

According to an online petition (http://bit.ly/supportvietnameserefugees) set up by the Vietnamese Anti-Deportation Network, Asian Pacific Islander Re-entry of Orange County and other groups, “Now, the U.S. government is continuing to double down on its efforts to ramp up deportations in our communities, puting ALL Vietnamese community members with final orders of removal at risk, regardless of whether they came to the U.S. before or after 1995.”

The petition states, “We join with all immigrant, refugee, black and brown communities across this country to hold our government accountable to us.”

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