Congressman Lowenthal Slams Newly Released 2020 U.S. MOU With Vietnam Allowing Deportation of Vietnamese Refugees Who Arrived In U.S. Prior To 1995

July 28, 2021
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) issued the following statement after a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) release of a November, 2020 U.S. State Department Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government of Vietnam which allows for the deportation of Vietnamese refugees who arrived in the U.S. prior to July 12, 1995, the date on which the U.S. and Vietnam officially re-established diplomatic relations:

"For four years, the Trump Administration flip flopped on reports that it was 'reinterpreting' an existing 2008 U.S. agreement with Vietnam about the repatriation of Vietnamese refugees, which included protections for Vietnamese refugees who came to US before 1995. The release of this new MOU shows that Trump Administration never planned to 'reinterpret' the existing MOU. Instead, as the newly released document details, the Trump Administration wrote an entirely new MOU to specifically single out pre-1995 refugees with the goal of allowing them to be deported back to Vietnam. This move lays bare the Trump Administration’s long obsession with deporting thousands of refugees from Vietnam and other countries of Southeast Asia.

“This new MOU is morally disturbing and violates the clear promises the U.S. made to these refugees after the Vietnam War. 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. This must not stand, and I will continue to fight to reverse this policy. This is one of the reasons I have previously introduced, and will reintroduce again very soon, the “Honor Our Commitment Act” to permanently protect Vietnamese refugees who arrived in the U.S. before 1995."

The original MOU signed in 2008 by the U.S. and Vietnamese governments, and honored by both the Bush and Obama administrations, states, “Vietnamese citizens are not subject to return to Vietnam under this Agreement if they arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995."

The new 2020 agreement specifically targets refugees who came to the U.S. prior to 1995. while stipulating that individuals who arrived in the U.S. after 1995 will still be covered by the terms of the 2008 MOU.

Click here to read the full text of the newly released 2020 MOU (blank portions were redacted by the State Department before release of the document).