HomeAsian AmericansSupreme Court Deals blow to Southeast Asian Refugees Facing Deportation
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Supreme Court Deals blow to Southeast Asian Refugees Facing Deportation

US Supreme Court


The U.S. Supreme Court today gave President Donald Trump broader powers to rearrest immigrants for past crimes and hold them indefinitely, even if they already served their time and have already been released from prison, reports the Hill.

The 5-4 ruling by the conservative majority court comes at a time Southeast Asian refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia have been increasingly detained for past crimes committed when they were youths. In recent months, many have been deported back to Cambodia and Vietnam.

The ruling overturns one from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Speaking for the majority in response to the 9th Circuit, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion ” “Four other circuits have rejected this interpretation of the statute, and we agree that the 9th Circuit’s interpretation is wrong.”

According to Politico, among the plaintiffs in the case was Mony Preap, a green card holder whose family fled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. He was detained without a bond hearing on two marijuana convictions seven years earlier after just serving a sentence for battery.

“I would have thought that Congress meant to adhere to these values and did not intend to allow the Government to apprehend persons years after their release from prison and hold them indefinitely without a bail hearing,” said Justice Stephen Breyer for the minority.

Civil rights group also joined in the dissent.

“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,” said Quyen Dinh, executive director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) said to AsAmNews. “We call on Congress to right the failings of the Supreme Court and work to fix the injustices of our current broken immigration system.”

Aarti Kohli, Executive Director of Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, said the ruling “blatantly ignores the language of the 1996 mandatory detention law and grossly expands the government’s ability to detain without due process.”


“This decision in favor of the government’s sweeping interpretation of the law goes far beyond Congress’ original intent and marks a serious threat to civil liberties in this country,” she said. “As a result, thousands of immigrants will be subject to mandatory imprisonment without the fundamental due process protections that form the backbone of our nation’s ideals and justice system.”

Prysm, a Southeast Asian community group in Rhode Island, also condemned the ruling.

“This court decision is a disservice to our vulnerable communities. Already immigrants have to face so much discrimination and harassment in their every day lives, so to see our federal government making the school to prison to deportation pipeline even stronger is frustrating but not surprising,” Prysm said to AsAmNews in a statement. “We will continue to fight this decision and condemn these inhumane acts of government power.”

“For two terms in a row now, the Supreme Court has endorsed the most extreme interpretation of immigration detention statutes, allowing mass incarceration of people without any hearing, simply because they are defending themselves against a deportation charge,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Cecillia Wang. “We will continue to fight the gross overuse of detention in the immigration system.”

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