US abandons effort to deport Vietnamese immigrants

By Nguyen Quy   November 27, 2018 | 05:26 pm PT
US abandons effort to deport Vietnamese immigrants
A Vietnamese kid waves an American flag during a naturalization ceremony in Los Angeles. Photo by Reuters/Kham
The Donald Trump administration has silently retracted its decision to send thousands of Vietnamese immigrants back to Vietnam.

Following a California district court ruling on October 18, thousands of Vietnamese immigrants who came to the U.S. as legal residents before 1995 have been spared from the risk of deportation by the federal immigration agents, the New York Times reported last week, citing an unnamed official in the Department of Homeland Security.

The shift followed an agreement reached with Vietnam last August under which "the removal of pre-1995 Vietnamese is not reasonably foreseeable," the Times report said.

However, the Trump administration has still asserted that it has the right to detain and re-detain immigrants who have criminal records even if they have already served their sentences.

Last year, former citizens of Vietnam, Cambodia and several other countries were caught up in a hardline immigration policy adopted by the Trump administration that sought to deport immigrants with criminal records who have green cards but never became naturalized U.S. citizens, even if they’d served their sentences.

As of December last year, there were 8,600 Vietnamese nationals in the United States subject to this controversial deportation policy that has put U.S. at odds with Vietnam.

The U.S. and Vietnam had reached a bilateral agreement in 2008, stating that "Vietnamese citizens are not subject to return to Vietnam" if they "arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995."

The White House’s deportation policy was in breach of this agreement.

Ted Osius, former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam who’s opposed to the policy, has since resigned from the State Department.

Osius told Reuters last April that most people targeted for deportation had arrived in the United States prior to 1995, the year diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the United States were resumed after the Vietnam War.

Around 12 Vietnamese immigrants have already been sent back home while many others have been kept in detention by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency for months awaiting deportation, the New York Times report said.

However, a 2001 Supreme Court ruling had determined that the government cannot detain immigrants for more than 180 days if their deportation is not "reasonably foreseeable," prompting the Asian Americans Advancing Justice to file a class-action lawsuit against the Trump administration to oppose the detentions earlier this year.

The Trump administration had told the court in October that it would start releasing many of the immigrants who had been detained and in some cases held for months pending approval of their deportation. However, the White House asserted that ICE still has the right to detain them indefinitely and repeatedly.

According to ICE figures, 71 Vietnamese people were deported to Vietnam last year, compared to 35 in 2016, and 32 in 2015. No information is given on when the deportees arrived in the United States.

Nearly 1.3 million Vietnamese citizens have immigrated to the United States since the end of the Vietnam War and obtained green cards. However, many of them are yet to become permanent U.S. citizens, due to the lack of education, language skills or legal help to complete the procedures of obtaining citizenship.

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