By Miriam Raftery
November 29, 2017 (San Diego) — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have raised concerns among Asian communities after rounding up and detaining an estimated 200 Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants in the Bay Area.
The unprecedented detentions are part of President Donald Trump’s effort to deport immigrants with criminal records, even if the offenses occurred long ago.
According to a letter sent to Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke and signed by California Senate Leader Kevin de Leon and Asian legislators, these detainees have been living law abiding lives in California for decades. Some came as infants or children and have never known life in another country.
The letter states, “Many Southeast Asian Americans are survivors of the Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge Genocide. They were part of the largest refugee resettlement in our country’s history and were placed in poverty ridden neighborhoods with significant crime rates. These factors coupled with language barriers, war trauma and lack of adequate resources contributed to numerous challenges adjusting to their new home.” The letter adds that these individuals have overcome youthful indiscretions to become productive and valued members of society.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that may of those detained have been sent to detention centers in the deep South, far away from families, and some have already been deported.
But some deportations may be illegal. That’s because of a repatriation agreement forged between Vietnam and the U.S. in 2008, which provided that Vietnamese immigrants who came to American before 1995 would be safe from deportation. Activists have told the Mercury-News that some of the recent detainees arrived before 1995.
There are no such protections for Cambodian refugees, as long as annual limits under a 2002 repatriation agreement are not exceeded.
Assemblyman Asa Klra, a San Jose Democrat, calls the detentions and deportations “unjust,” adding that the actions “
speak to the federal administration’s lack of compassion for our Southeast Asian immigrant population, including those who escaped political persecution and genocide to come to the United States.” She calls the recent deportations in violation of international agreements “a betrayal of our country’s commitment to these communities and only further undermines the integrity and sanctity of our country’s diplomatic agreements.”
The actions could have repercussions in San Diego County as well, which is home to a high number of immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia, and other southeast Asian countries.