Deportation in the Shadows

Policy revisions will tear Vietnamese families apart

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Illustration by Manne Green.

As America watches border patrol agents throw gas canisters and tear children from their parents at the nation’s southern border, the White House is quietly preparing to detain 7,000 Vietnamese residents and deport them across the Pacific Ocean.

Donald Trump’s policies hurt immigrants and, for this administration, that’s the point. He argues immigration is an issue of law and justice — an issue separate from compassion. His policies match his apathy.

We can’t afford to narrow our lens on what’s happening in our nation. We cannot leave Trump’s policies unrestricted. America’s Vietnamese community cannot disappear.

In 2008, the U.S. signed a repatriation agreement with Vietnam, blocking the deportation of Vietnamese refugees born before July 12, 1995. The agreement was an attempt to redress the horrors of the Vietnam War — a war that took the lives of 3.1 million Vietnamese people and forced 125,000 to flee their homes. It was a war the U.S. instigated, worsened and ended with the deaths of 80,000 South Vietnamese in its last year.

Still, the administration is calling these asylum seekers “violent criminal aliens.” This sweeping generalization undermines the character of America’s immigrants. It justifies the administration’s reprehensible policies. It’s a way to divert attention from the reality of Trump’s strategy.

In 2017, the Trump administration began reinterpreting the deportation agreement to exclude refugees convicted of crimes. This allowed the administration to deport 12 pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants the next year. Some of these cases concerned violent crimes and others dealt with nonviolent cases, like driving under the influence. In many of these cases, offenders already served their sentences.

If Trump’s immigration policy is an argument of justice, then he is creating a double standard and forcing individuals to pay for crimes twice.

Vietnam resisted Trump’s initial attempts and insisted on abiding by the 2008 agreement, and in fall 2018, the White House dropped attempts. In less than a month, the administration revived its plan, and now 7,000 Vietnamese are in danger of forced repatriation.

As of  Dec. 13, 26 members of Congress signed a letter decrying Trump’s reinterpretation. Former ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius called the reinterpretation so un-American he resigned in protest when Trump began attempts.

Trump’s manipulation of this agreement contradicts the American dream so often championed by the same administration.

It is jeopardizing the lives of America’s Vietnamese and disrespecting the experiences of those who served side by side with American veterans. It is erasing the communities and relationships built by Vietnamese in this very nation.

The administration labels these asylum seekers as criminals. It disregards their contributions to this country and without them, this country will fracture.

Pay attention and protest the government’s schemes. Support America’s Vietnamese community.

Governors have the power to pardon and grant clemency. In November, Gov. Jerry Brown helped three Vietnamese-American men avoid deportation. Call your governor to pardon asylum seekers for past sentences already served.

You can learn more at the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center and sign its petition to denounce the government’s deportation agenda. Make your voice heard and show the government this is unacceptable.

Trump’s immigration policies are senseless. They are cruel. And left unchecked, they will tear apart both the communities of this nation and the fabric of America.


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