HomeCommunity IssuesCommunity10 Cambodian families face deportation and separation Thursday in Boston

10 Cambodian families face deportation and separation Thursday in Boston

Kevin Lam, Organizing Director for the Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW), speaks out against deportations in the Southeast Asian community.

By Felix Poon, AsAmNews Staff Writer

Close to two hundred demonstrators turned out in front of the JFK Federal Building in Boston to protest the imminent deportations of Cambodian Americans. Saray Im, a 44 years old resident of Lynn, MA was there with his family—he’s one of ten Cambodians in Massachusetts to receive a letter from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ordering them to report to the Burlington, MA ICE facility this Thursday. His oldest daughter, Jassyran Kim, flew up from Davidson College in North Carolina to be with him.

“What I want you to know is that…he’s a pillar in my family,” Kim told the protest crowd.

“He’s a loving father, who works relentless hours just to keep the food and lights on in my household. And I wouldn’t get to go to college, and I don’t get to do the things that I do if it weren’t for my family, and if it weren’t for a father like him to support my family.”

“But I can tell you things that I don’t know,” Kim continued as tears streamed down her face.

“I can tell you that I don’t know if he’s going to be at Thanksgiving. I can tell you I don’t know if he’s going to see his first child graduate from college in May. I can tell you that I don’t know if I’ll have a father to walk me down [the] aisle, ever.”

Jassyran Kim speaks about her father, Saray Im, who has been ordered to report to an ICE facility in Burlington MA this Thursday for detention and deportation. Kim’s mother Tammie Christopulos wipes tears as she stands behind her.

Kim’s mother, Tammie Christopulos, has been with Im for nearly 20 years.

“I just want it to be known that [because of] this man, I was able to quit my full time job, [and] go to school full time to become a nurse,” Christopulos told AsAmNews, “so our family was uplifted as a whole. And to just rip all that away from us?”

“He’s not like a dad that just works and thinks ‘my job is done.’ [Our son] Jayvin made a card for his dad at school. And it said, ‘Dad, if you get deported, who’s gonna cook?’ I don’t, I can’t cook good, he’s the cook in the family…. I’m literally losing half of me.”

Cambodian deportations have risen aggressively since Trump took office, about 280% between fiscal years 2017 and 2018, according to ICE data.

ICE responded to our request for comment, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not target individuals for arrest or removal based on ethnicity or race. ICE focuses its resources on the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who have received criminal convictions; have pending criminal charges; or are determined to be a national security or public safety threat.”

Critics say that these deportations do not make communities safer. On the contrary, they argue, deporting people like Im make their communities weaker. Bethany Li, director of the Greater Boston Legal Services’ Asian Outreach Unit, spoke at the protest about the character of the people that ICE plans to deport. Among them—a son who cares for a mother who had a stroke and relies on him for day to day activities; Saray Im, a coach and leader of teams in the North Shore youth football league who mentors and provides meaningful opportunities to young people; and a father of a two month old who helps his partner adjust to the new routines of a new baby, while also helping his siblings care for his elderly mother who’s been diagnosed with a mental health illness.

“These are people who make up our communities in Massachusetts,” Li said, “and these are the people who make our communities stronger.”

Li still holds out hope that the ten can have their convictions vacated.

“We’re filing a habeas [petition] for [Saray],” Li told AsAmNews. “We’re going to argue that it’s unconstitutional, the way in which [he’s] being detained because…they’re just mass detaining people. [ICE] doesn’t know whether or not the people that they’re detaining are actually deportable.”

Li explained that it’s not yet known if Cambodia will agree to repatriate them. Furthermore, laws have changed in the two decades since the original convictions, including the fact that it’s unconstitutional to advise someone to plead guilty without knowing what the immigration consequences are, which is the very thing that Im was advised to do by his attorney 27 years ago with his original conviction. He was incarcerated for 3 years, and held in ICE detention for 2 years.

During those years Im studied for his GED and tutored others. He was released on supervision in 2001, which meant he had to check in periodically, “every six months, three months, a year, it’s up to them to change the date. And I did that and it just repeats over and over just back and forth, back and forth.” In 2002, Im found a job at Axcelis Technologies Inc., a semiconductor manufacturing company, where he currently works as a receiving coordinator.

“Since I’ve been with him, he has not been in trouble ever, not even a speeding ticket,” his wife Christopulos said. And they’ve been together for nearly twenty years. Last Friday was their anniversary.

“We went to Canobie Lake Friday night. My husband and I went and he got his first pedicure,” she said to laughter from her children, which quickly turned back to tears and sniffling.

“Because I had all weekend planned for our anniversary. My anniversary was Friday and it wasn’t supposed to be like that.”

“Thursday, you know, [we’ll] see what comes, hopefully we get to walk back out of that building with my husband, and my children get their dad, and it all changes. We have attorneys working on things. We just need more time.”

When we asked Kim what she had to say to elected officials about her father, she implored, “please see my father as a father, please see him as a man that is trying hard and has righted all his wrongs, and [has] raised a beautiful family. He has impacted many others and people trust him with their kids. How can you say a man is not worthy of being in this country, but has done everything that you want him to do and has shown that a justice system that is very unjust, can still make a man that has done wrong be right?”

Families, friends, and organizers will accompany the ten when they report to the ICE facility this Thursday.

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our  Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff or submitting a story 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Worth the Time

Must Read

Regular Features


Discover more from AsAmNews

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading