HomeVietnamese AmericanViet Am faces deportation for crime 30 years ago as youth

Viet Am faces deportation for crime 30 years ago as youth

By Isabelle Roetcisoender, AsAmNews Intern

A Vietnamese American man could be forced to leave the United States  
in just 10 days.

“I feel so down. I feel that…man…I feel so sad and so hurt, so lonely that a-I have never feel so much hurt like that because it hit me really hard because I feel that they gonna deport me and go back to Vietnam but I leave Vietnam when I was 12 years old and I don’t know nobody. I live over here so long,” said Lam Hong Le, who is at risk for deportation.

Le, 52, was paroled on October, 2019, after 32 years in prison as a youth offender. However, within minutes of his release, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained him. Le was imprisoned in the Yuba County Detention Facility for 2 months and 8 days before being released under deportation proceedings.

“When we left the country, the Vietnam government always think that we are traitors. So if now you…uh…deported, they always look at me the same way. You are a traitor. You are not to be believed because you are impacted, influenced [by] democratic country and not to be trusted,” Le explained.

Le’s next checkin will be on June 7, 2021. There is public concern ICE will take him back into custody and deport him to Vietnam. In March 2021 ICE picked up 33 men released from prison and deported them to Vietnam without public awareness. This is despite a 2008 agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam not to deport Vietnamese refugees who arrived prior to 1995. Le came to the United States at the age of 12 in 1981 with his younger brother as unsupervised minors. 

Satsuki Ina, a licensed psychotherapist specializing in community trauma, explained that historically, Vietnamese soldiers fought alongside the U.S. When the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam, the Vietnamese soldiers who fought alongside U.S. soldiers were brought over to the U.S. as refugees to protect them from the government that they fought against. Should Le be deported to Vietnam, they fear he would have no connections, face a hostile Vietnamese administration and be condemned as a traitor.

After his release from prison, Le became an essential worker, began community service work, and joined the Vietnamese church community. Le also began involvement with Tsuru for Solidarity, a nonprofit to protest and close all concentration camps.

“Now I do something for the people I feel that I’ve been blessed. I feel grateful to serve people,” said Le at a virtually rally held over Zoom on Wednesday. 

“Lam’s story represents the story of many people like Chanton Bun and other Southeast Asian individuals who face this constant threat of that any day they could be picked up and deported in spite of the agreement that was made in 2008 to not deport Southeast Asians, particularly Vietnamese,” said Ina. The routine California pardon process takes years. In order for Le to avoid deportation he requires the expediency of a Direct Pardon from Governor Newsom. 

“You know, either you understand our ways or not and that’s how we’re going to choose your freedom. So Lam struggled a lot and he fought and he gained and earned his freedom. They didn’t give it to him. He earned it,” said Chanthon Bun, a Cambodian refugee who has faced similar hardships. 

AsAmNews reached out to Governor Newsom for comment. A spokesperson from the Governor’s Office wrote, “We are unable to discuss individual clemency applications, but can assure that each application receives careful and individualized consideration.

An in person rally in support of Le will be held on June 3, 2021 from 11AM-12:30PM PDT at the west steps of the Sacramento State Capital Building. The event will be co-sponsored by SEARAC, Asian Law Caucus, Immigration Coalition of Sacramento, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, and Detention Watch Network.

If you would like to help Le avoid deportation then you can sign the petition. You can also learn more about how to end ICE transfers to protect immigrants from COVID-19 here

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