Congressman Lowenthal Introduces Legislation To Halt Administration Efforts To Deport Vietnamese American Refugees

May 28, 2020
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), today, led eight of his House colleagues in introducing the “Honor Our Commitment Act” to maintain current protections afforded to Vietnamese refugees in the United States. The bill would defer removal of nationals of Vietnam for a 24-month period, in accordance with a U.S.-Vietnam Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that specifically excludes the deportation of pre-1995 immigrants who came to the U.S. in the wake of the Vietnam War. 

“The Trump Administration’s obsession with deporting thousands of refugees from Vietnam and other countries of Southeast Asia is morally disturbing and violates the clear promises we made to these refugees,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “Previous administrations of both parties recognized our promised commitment to protect these people, a group that includes Vietnam War-era refugees who have lived in the U.S. for decades. These agreements with Vietnam only allow those who arrived in the United States after 1995, the date when the United States recognized the Vietnamese government, to be deported. I am proud to introduce this bill placing a 24-month moratorium on the detention and/or deportation of any Vietnamese American who came to the U.S. prior to 1995.”

The bill points out that the longstanding MOU, signed by the U.S. and Vietnamese governments in 2008 under President George W. Bush, does not outline a bilateral agreement regarding the deportation of any Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995, as this was subject to previous legal positions of the two countries.

Even for those who came to the U.S. after July 12, 1995, the MOU promises to “take into account the humanitarian aspect, family unity and circumstances” of each person being considered for repatriation and to carry out repatriation “in an orderly and safe way, and with respect for the individual human dignity of the person repatriated.”

In 2019, the Trump’s Administration began to renegotiate the 2008 Vietnam-U.S. MOU to expand the categories of immigrants it could deport, including permanent residents who have committed certain minor crimes and others who came to the United States as children after the Vietnam War.

“The terms of the MOU recognize the complex history between the two countries and the dire circumstances under which hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled to the U.S. to seek refuge from political persecution in the aftermath of the Vietnam War,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “Many of those who fled were South Vietnamese who had fought alongside or otherwise supported the U.S. government during the war. Sending these refugees back to communist Vietnam threatens their freedom, security, and well-being. It is imperative that we prevent this administration from violating our commitments by sending thousands of Vietnamese refugees back to a country they fled years ago, and in the process tearing apart thousands of families and significantly disrupting immigrant and refugee communities across the U.S.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Congress Members Gerald E. Connolly, Lou Correa, Hank Johnson, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Harley Rouda, and Juan Vargas.

To read the full text of the bill, please click here.