Southeast Asian Organizations Denounce Deportation of 30 Vietnamese Americans

For immediate release
August 7, 2020

Media contacts:

Elaine Sanchez Wilson
Communications Director
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
(202) 601-2970
James Woo
Marketing & IT Manager
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta
(404) 585-8446 Ext. 104
Kevin Lam
Organizing Director at AARW
Vietnamese Anti-Deportation Network
(617) 942-8178
Nate Tan
Asian Prisoner Support Committee
Sarath Suong
National Director
Southeast Asian Freedom Network
(781) 534-1580

Southeast Asian Organizations Denounce Deportation of 30 Vietnamese Americans


Washington DC – On August 4, 2020 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed 30 Vietnamese community members to Vietnam, including people previously thought to be protected under a 2008 bilateral agreement. The agreement between the United States and Vietnam had previously been interpreted to provide broad deportation protections for Vietnamese refugees who arrived in the United States prior to July 12, 1995. The forced removal of Vietnamese refugees signals a shift in whom the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is prioritizing for removal. To date, over 2,000 Southeast Asian Americans have been deported from the United States.
ICE deportations have been linked to the global spread of COVID-19, with 11 different countries reporting COVID-19 among individuals removed. Like in federal prisons and county jails, the unsanitary conditions and inhumane living situations in ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facilities have greatly increased COVID-19 positive rates among detained individuals. Despite the over 3,000 positive cases in ICE detention facilities, the agency has not taken concrete steps to properly test and treat detained individuals, increase social distancing through the usage of supervised release, nor curb their deportation efforts.
It is cruel and wrong to deport Vietnamese refugees. Deportations of Southeast Asian Americans is an abdication of the commitment that the United States made to the people of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Our people escaped political persecution and genocide that were the direct results of American intervention. The Vietnamese American community cannot assume that some of us will be protected from removal when the Trump Administration has demonstrated that they will make every effort to remove as many immigrants and refugees as they can, regardless of circumstance. We reject DHS’ efforts to tear our families apart and remain committed to preventing the removal of all immigrants and refugees and creating a pathway for our deported loved ones to return home.
As a nation, while we are facing the worse health and economic crisis of our time – when our loved ones are dying, sick, losing their jobs, facing an uncertain future – instead of addressing this crisis, the federal government is prioritizing breaking families apart, detaining and deporting community members who have long served their debt to society. It is imperative that our country focus our limited resources on containing and treating COVID-19 instead of actively working to further harm minority communities.
ICE has shown that it does not care about the health and wellbeing of our communities. Despite a global pandemic, their agents continue to arrest our community members and detain them without taking proper steps to keep immigrants and refugees safe from the coronavirus. They tear our families apart and further force our communities into poverty and housing insecurity during an economic, health, housing crisis. We have seen our loved ones detained and then abruptly transferred to another facility across the country, further preventing them from accessing their family or legal support. Without any real efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities, ICE is knowingly letting vulnerable detained immigrants and refugees die and intentionally spreading this virus the worldover. We cannot continue to fund such a fundamentally corrupt, dangerous, and immoral entity.
This summer, around the country, thousands upon thousands have marched in cities and small towns to denounce racist anti-Black violence at the hands of the police. Anti-Black violence in the form of policing, incarceration, and premature death have had widespread impacts on Southeast Asian refugees who have arrived and resettled in the United State’s era of mass incarceration. State violence in the form of police, correctional officers, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents, and ICE officers have been a continuous response to communities who live in concentrated poverty. For too long, the priorities of this country have been about locking up, throwing away, and deporting our community members. We call on our community members to join our national call on Wednesday, August 12th at 7pm EST to discuss how we can support each other, and how we can fight back.

Supreme Court Decision Hurts Immigrant Communities

Washington, DC – Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 and along party lines in the Nielsen v. Preap case that immigrants with a criminal record can be detained at anytime and are not required to provide such individuals with a bond hearing. Immigrants who have already been ordered removed are not subject to this decision. The American Civil Liberties Union litigated the class action lawsuit. One of the lead plaintiffs in the case was a Cambodian American named Mony Preap.

“The right to due process is a principle that is core to this country, and stripping that basic right away from immigrants, including Southeast Asian Americans who have already long served their time, is not just shameful and anti-American – it is wrong,” Quyen Dinh, executive director of SEARAC, said to AsAmNews. “We remain committed to fixing the injustices of our broken immigration system through holistic legislation, such as Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, and call on to Congress to work with impacted communities to right the failings of the Supreme Court.”


Elaine Sanchez Wilson
(202) 601-2970 /

NAKASEC, SAALT, and SEARAC Welcome Introduction of The Dream and Promise Act

Washington, DC – Asian American organizations welcome the introduction of the Dream and Promise Act. The bill, introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA 40), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY 7), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY 9), provides a majority of undocumented immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and individuals with status under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs a pathway to citizenship.

There are more than 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, 1.7 million of whom are Asian American, living in the United States. The top five countries of origin for Asian American undocumented individuals are India, China, South Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The legislation would protect over two million individuals from detention and deportation by creating a permanent pathway to citizenship for these populations. Furthermore, approximately 120,000 Asian American DREAMers and 15,000 Nepali Americans who currently live in the United States through the TPS program would benefit from the process created in this bill.

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), states:
“We applaud the leadership of Reps. Roybal-Allard, Velazquez, and Clarke for introducing this bill. It is an important step for immigrant communities and, if passed, would provide more than 9,000 Vietnamese Americans with a permanent pathway to citizenship. Our communities are hopeful that this act will create a strong foundation and pave the way for additional legislation that liberates all members of our communities from the fear heightened detentions and deportations inflict. And as Congress moves this bill forward, we must ensure that we do not divide immigrant communities into those deserving and undeserving of protections by utilizing only model immigrant narratives. SEARAC will continue to work with members of Congress to pass the Dream and Promise Act and fix our fundamentally broken immigration system to create humane immigration processes that protect Southeast Asian American families from the trauma of detention and deportation and reunite our families in the United States.”
Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), states:
“We welcome the introduction of the Dream and Promise Act, which sets out to provide a long awaited pathway to citizenship for over two million individuals, including those with DACA, TPS, and DED. The South Asian community in the United States alone has over 23,000 Dreamers and 15,000 Nepali Americans with TPS who will directly benefit from this legislation. While Congress embarks on this important step, we will continue to follow the leadership of DACA, TPS, and DED holders, who advocate for policies that would uplift all – rather than legislation that would benefit one immigrant community at the expense of another. We must not allow any compromises that would undermine this hard work and deliver this bill’s protections for the price of increased enforcement and other harmful and unnecessary additions. We look forward to building on this legislation to improve our entirely broken immigration system to ensure that all immigrant families are protected from detention, deportation, and denaturalization.”
Birdie Park, DACA Recipient with National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), states:
“We are excited about forward motion in Congress for immigrant youth, TPS holders, and those with DED. We call upon our members of Congress to be courageous and not negotiate anything harmful for our communities onto this bill.”
Sam Yu, NAKASEC / 213-703-0992
Sophia Qureshi, SAALT / 202-997-4211

Elaine Sanchez Wilson, SEARAC / 202-601-2970

Take Action: Tell Your Reps to Vote NO on the DHS Funding Bill

Today, both the US Senate and US House of Representatives will vote on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill that will be extremely harmful to immigrant communities. Using our taxpayer dollars, this bill allocates $1.3 billion for a wall, an 11% increase in detention beds to incarcerate immigrants, and increases ICE agents. This bill was negotiated because Trump shut down the government, putting 800,000 federal workers’ livelihood at risk, for a wall. He is making us believe that if anti-immigrant legislation is not passed, Congress will force him to shut down the government again.
This is a false frame. Trump does not need to shut down the government for Congress to work on immigrant rights issues. If he shuts down the government, he is solely to blame.
We need our members of Congress to protect immigrant communities and vote NO on the DHS funding bill.


Take two minutes (one minute per call) and call your US Senator and US Congressmember NOW

1.) Call the US Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with your senators and congressmember. You can also click here to find the direct lines to your representatives.

Sample Script: “Hi, my name is ______ and I am a constituent of Senator/Congressmember ____. On this Valentine’s Day, I am calling to urge them show their love for the immigrant community and VOTE NO on the DHS funding bill. This bill will be extremely harmful to our communities. Thank you.” 

Community Alert: US, Vietnam Schedule Meeting Next Week to Renegotiate 2008 Repatriation Agreement

Community members have been alerted that the Vietnamese government will be meeting with the Department of Homeland Security this Monday, Dec. 10, to renegotiate the current 2008 repatriation agreement, also known as memorandum of understanding (MOU). This renegotiation leaves open the possibility that all Vietnamese people with final orders of removal will no longer be protected from deportation — regardless of when they entered the United States.
As it currently stands, the US-Vietnam repatriation agreement does not permit Vietnamese immigrants who arrived to the United States before July 12, 1995, to be deported. It also requires that Vietnam and the United States take into account family unity and other humanitarian factors when considering whether to remove an individual to Vietnam.
Now, the US government seeks to continue its policy of separating families, this time putting all Vietnamese community members with final orders of removal at risk.

TAKE ACTION: Voice your opposition to any renegotiation of the US-Vietnam agreement

1) Sign this petition opposing a change in the US-Vietnam MOU.
2.) Attend a national community meeting to discuss our community’s opposition strategy and to gather ideas on how to maintain the repatriation agreement as is, so that our families are not torn apart further by deportation. The community meeting will take place tonight at 10pm EST / 7pm PST. Please click here to join the meeting. Space is limited.

A Love Letter to America

“He chose his country because he loved his family.” My parents have repeated those words to me for more thanover two decades when describing my grandfather. In the fallout of the Vietnam War and in the ensuing escape from Laos, he and his men guided my family across the Mekong River. And in the dark of the night, he left them at a Thai refugee camp and returned to the jungles of Laos. He spent years resisting a government that hunted my peoples before he and his men were ambushed.

I was born in that camp, a location that I often cannot pronounce. My green card still lists me as a Lao national, even though I’ve never been there nor do I remember the chain fences from my birth. After I was born, my parents crossed an ocean to California and then to Minnesota. My parents struggled —- selling trinkets at flea markets and working from dawn until midnight, manufacturing your hearing aids and heart catheters. And in the space between their love, I learned in snow- covered streets that I was just American enough, but still not American.

Throughout my adolescence, I was ashamed of the rocks hurled at our cars, the slurs thrown in our faces, and the pity tossed in our direction. But my time at college taught me to look inward, to understand my parents —- that they are American in their copper skin, brown eyes, and jet black hair. And in that understanding, I realized that it was America that should be ashamed of the ways in which we have treated refugees and immigrants.

So at 18, I helped a group of recent Burmese, Bhutanese, and Karen refugees organize and fight to save an educational program that allowed them to procure a high school diploma. And we won. But I remember what a young Burmese woman said during one of our strategy sessions: “My country has taken away my home, my family, and my education. I come to America only to find that they, too, are trying to take my education away from me.” Those words continue to stay with me. I’ve since spent over a decade of my life working to advance the rights of immigrant and refugee communities.

I now work at SEARAC because, like my grandfather, I, too, choose my country. I love the only country I have ever called home, but our laws are flawed. We hurt and deport immigrants without consideration of history, of community, nor of impact. We target and retraumatize those who seek shelter on our shores. But because I love our country, I am committed to making her better for all of us. Through SEARAC, I choose to resist efforts to tear my community from the only home many of us have ever known.

Kham S. Moua is SEARAC’s new Immigration Policy Advocate. To contact him, e-mail