Congressman Lowenthal, House Colleagues, Human and Immigration Rights Orgs Urge New Acting ICE Director To End Southeast Asian American Deportations

September 29, 2020
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today joined with 29 of his House colleagues in urging the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to end the detention and deportation of Southeast Asian refugees from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

The letter to newly installed ICE Acting Director Tony Pham, which was also endorsed by nearly 30 human and immigration rights organizations, points out that hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asian refugees fled to the U.S. to seek freedom from political persecution in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the Communist take-over of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in the 1970s. Some of these refugees, many young children and teenagers, resettled in struggling U.S. neighborhoods without support or resources to cope with significant trauma from the war and as a result, made mistakes that funneled them into the criminal justice system. However, these refugees have served their time and are now positively contributing to their communities.

The Members point out that contrary to the 2008 U.S.-Vietnam Agreement that effectively prevented the repatriation of refugees to Vietnam that arrived in the U.S. prior to 1995, ICE has in fact recently deported at 30 Vietnamese refugees, including pre-1995 individuals in the U.S. back to Vietnam. While no such agreement exists between the U.S. and either Laos or Cambodia, similar deportations of Laotian and Cambodia refugees have also been underway by ICE.

The Members conclude the letter to Acting Director Pham by writing, “As a refugee whose family fled communist forces, we know you are well aware of the struggle of the Vietnamese diaspora with the trauma of involuntary migration. These individuals and their families are Americans who are not familiar with the country they fled from. They may have made mistakes in their youth, but many have turned their lives around. We urge you to honor the humanitarian spirit and intention embodied in the 2008 US-Vietnam Agreement, and to halt deportation of Southeast Asian refugees. To do otherwise would send thousands of refugees back to countries they fled years ago, would tear apart thousands of families, and would significantly disrupt immigrant and refugee communities across the U.S.”

To read the full text of the letter, click here.

In addition to Congressman Lowenthal, the letter was also signed by House Members Ami Bera, Donald S. Beyer, Jr., Joaquin Castro, Judy Chu, Gil Cisneros, Lou Correa, Jim Costa, Al Green, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, Ted W. Lieu, Zoe Lofgren, Betty McCollum, James P. McGovern, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Seth Moulton, Grace F. Napolitano, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Linda T. Sánchez, Jan Schakowsky, Adam Smith, Jackie Speier, Lori Trahan, Nydia M. Velázquez, and Bonnie Watson Coleman.

The human and immigrations rights organizations who have endorsed the letter include: National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, Laotian American National Alliance, Khmer Anti-deportation Advocacy Group (KhAAG), Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians For Education, Release MN8, Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP), NAPAFASA, Still Waters Anti-trafficking Program, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), CMAA (Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association), UNAVSA, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC), PIVOT (Progressive Vietnamese American Organization), The Advocates for Human Rights, Japanese American Citizens League, VietRISE, Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN), Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW), Southeast Asian American Education Coalition, Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (CERI), Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, Long Beach Southeast Asian Anti-Deportation Collective, Long Beach Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, Cambodian American Community Council of WA State, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.