Congressman Lowenthal Leads Bicameral Coalition Urging Administration To Uphold 2008 Agreement Barring Deportation Of Pre-1995 Vietnamese Refugees

April 13, 2021
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today led a bicameral coalition of 30 House and Senate Members in urging the Biden administration to halt the reported deportation of Vietnamese refugees.

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the Members ask Secretary Mayorkas to confirm or deny reports that a new U.S.-Vietnam Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the deportation to Vietnam of pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants to the U.S. was signed in February 2021.

The Members also request that Secretary Mayorkas confirm or deny reports that on March 15, 2021, an Omni Air Charter flight with 33 Vietnamese individuals in Department of Homeland Security custody left Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport bound for Hanoi, Vietnam.

“I am disheartened of reports that a new agreement was negotiated by the Trump Administration and signed by President Biden to deport refugees who fled persecution in Vietnam.” Congressman Lowenthal said. “These individuals have lived in the U.S. for decades and were supposed to be protected from deportation by the 2008 Agreement signed by the U.S. and Vietnam. I am proud to lead my House and Senate colleagues to protest any efforts to renegotiate this Agreement with Vietnam and to jeopardize these Vietnamese Americans.”

The letter points out that the 2008 Agreement, which was honored by both President George W. Bush and Barack Obama, excluded from deportation to Vietnam any Vietnamese individuals who arrived in the U.S. prior to the two nations reestablishing diplomatic relations on July 12, 1995.

The Members point out, “Many of those who fled fought alongside or supported U.S. forces during the war. Others were born in refugee camps and have never set foot in the country to which they currently face deportation. Upon their arrival in the U.S., these refugees, many of them young children or teenagers, were resettled in struggling neighborhoods without support or resources to cope with significant trauma from the war. As a result, some made mistakes that funneled them into the criminal justice system. However, these individuals have served their time.”

The Members conclude by stating, “While we await the details of this situation, we want to unequivocally express our opposition to any agreement that would allow the repatriation of Vietnamese refugees who arrived before 1995, as many of us have done before.”

This letter is endorsed by the following organizations: Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, Asian American Resource Workshop, VietLead, VietRISE, Mekong NYC, Southeast Asian Defense Project, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Providence Youth Student Movement, Tsuru for Solidarity, Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, and Asian Pacific American Bar Association (APABA-PA) of Pennsylvania.

The letter is signed by United States Senators Elizabeth Warren and Mazie K. Hirono, as well as Representatives Juan Vargas, Nikema Williams, Barbara Lee, Ritchie Torres, Hank Johnson, Seth Moulton, Cindy Axne, Adam Smith, Jim McGovern, Ayanna Pressley, Ro Khanna, Grace Meng, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Jan Schakowsky, Lou Correa, Ilhan Omar, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jake Auchincloss, Raul Grijalva, Zoe Lofgren, Pramila Jayapal, Scott H. Peters, Lori Trahan, Linda Sánchez, James Langevin, Judy Chu, Katie Porter, and Jerry Nadler.