HomeCambodian/ Khmer AmericanCambodian Americans nationwide targeted for new round of deportations

Cambodian Americans nationwide targeted for new round of deportations

A Cambodian refugee is led to a plane that will fly him back to Cambodia.

Views from the Edge

The Cambodian American community is on edge this week as another round of deportations is expected to commence.

Dozens of Cambodian refugees who came to the US legally as children and who served time behind bars for crimes committed as youth are being ordered to report to federal officials in the coming days for removal.

“Many of these people have served their time and rebuilt their lives,” said Kevin Lam, an organizer with the Asian American Resource Workshop in Boston. “They have families, careers and contribute to their communities.”

At least 20 people in California have been served notices to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin the deportation process, according to Ny Nourn, a San Francisco-based community advocate with the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus. The state is home to the largest population of Cambodians in the U.S.

In Massachusetts, the state with the nation’s second largest Cambodian community, at least 10 residents have received the notices, said Bethany Li, director of Greater Boston Legal Services’ Asian Outreach Unit.

Related Story: 10 Cambodians face deportations and family separation Thursday in Boston

Other Cambodian Americans living in Minnesota, Texas, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin have also been issued the orders, said Elaine Sanchez Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center in Washington, D.C.

Asian American activists argue that many of those facing deportation already served criminal sentences years and in some cases decades ago, when they were troubled young refugees struggling to adjust to a new country after their families fled Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

As refugees, the families were placed in low-income neighborhoods and were forced to join gangs for survival in the rough environment.

This fiscal year alone, 80 refugees have been deported. There are nearly 1,800 Cambodians with final removal orders living in the country. As former incarcerated individuals, they are usually under court ordered supervision.

“I have kids that are American, and a wife that is an American citizen. But just because of the past, they can pick you up and deport you at any moment. That’s just insane to me,” said one man who requested to remain anonymous.

If he’s forced to go back to Cambodia, he said he’d be leaving his family and a nearly two-decade career serving at risk youths to live in a country he’s never known.

 “I consider myself an American,” he said. 

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