Many’s story: Refugee Deportation

Many has been fighting his order of deportation for almost 20 years. Many was born in Cambodia in 1976, in the middle of the genocide orchestrated by the Khmer Rouge. Just as the regime was being driven out in 1979, remaining Khmer Rouge soldiers took Many’s family hostage in the jungle for another year before they escaped to the Thai border.

Like so many other refugee families, Many’s family eventually resettled in the U.S. and struggled in neighborhoods plagued by poverty and violence, and schools not equipped to support bright, young, English learner refugee kids like Many.

By the time he was 18 in 1994, Many was convicted of driving a getaway car during a robbery. He took responsibility for his actions and pled guilty, never imagining that in 1996, laws would be passed that would retroactively make his guilty plea a deportable offense.

During his years in prison, Many taught himself immigration law in the prison library and mentored other Khmer and Asian American prisoners. When he was released from prison in 1997, he was immediately detained for two more years in immigration detention. Many fought his detention and joined a Supreme Court case that eventually ruled that indefinite immigrant detention was unconstitutional. He was finally released, but he lives in limbo with a final order of deportation.

Today, Many is a proud husband and father, a dedicated mentor, and a nationally recognized advocate. He has a pardon from the governor of Washington and has been appointed to a statewide commission on prisoner reentry. In 2015, he started a group called F.I.G.H.T. (Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together) that brings an Asian American studies-based curriculum and support group to Clallam Bay prison. Through Many’s vision, F.I.G.H.T. aims to support both current and formerly incarcerated Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through mentoring, advocacy, outreach, and political education.

Learn more about Many’s story.

Learn more about SEARAC’s work to fight mandatory detention and deportation.