From Thi Bui, author of "The Best We Could Do":
This is Mony Neth. He's the same age as me—forty two. I came from Viet Nam; he came from Cambodia. His family fled the Khmer Rouge when he was just a few months old. He spent years in a refugee camp in Thailand. By the time Mony arrived in the U.S. as a refugee, he was ten years old.
When he was a teenager, he was convicted of possessing a weapon and receiving stolen property and lost his green card. That was twenty two years ago. Since then, Mony got married, raised a daughter who is now sixteen, and cares for his aging parents. He installs solar panels for a living and serves the homeless with his church community. Even the court that convicted him has recognized his efforts to turn his life around, granting him a certificate of rehabilitation.
But that wasn't enough for ICE. On October 20, 2017, ICE officers arrested Mony on his way to work and held him in immigration detention. Mony was then transferred to another facility in Louisiana, thousands of miles away from his family in Modesto, CA to interview with Cambodian officials, and then transferred back. His family lives in fear, knowing that Mony could disappear from their lives soon.
This is part of a wave of deportations sweeping up Southeast Asians. Over 150 Cambodian refugees were arrested for deportation in October 2017. Ninety five deportation cases involving Vietnamese people have been submitted by the U.S. to the Vietnamese government. Many of these people came to the U.S. as refugees, and they are now sitting in detention centers, about to be deported to a country they fled years ago.
Like Mony, the Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees who are about to be deported were released by ICE years or decades ago because Viet Nam and Cambodia refused to accept them for deportation. They returned to their communities and have led peaceful and productive lives. Many have U.S. citizen spouses, children, siblings, and relatives who rely on them for support. They've been healing from the trauma of war and dislocation and the myriad ways that these things affect one's relationships and ability to be whole and healthy.
Now, once again, they've been ripped away from their loved ones and face deportation from the home they have created here—the only home they know.
The people forced onto a flight in less than two weeks will already make up the largest deportation of Southeast Asian refugees in U.S. history. More raids and deportations are likely to follow. More than 2,000 Cambodian Americans and 10,000 Vietnamese Americans across the country are at risk of being re-detained and deported.
This story is part of a bigger story about how we treat prisoners and formerly incarcerated people in America. And how we treat immigrants and refugees. We have the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world, but we act like we can throw away people once they've been in the criminal justice system. And with people who were born in another country, many of whom left those countries because of conflicts America helped create in the first place, it's easy to use immigration status as an excuse.
Please help me resist this injustice.
—Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do
How you can help:
- Petition for Cambodian deportations
- Petition for Vietnamese deportations
- Support the work of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus and Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, who have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of detainees. All donations will be matched until end of December.
- Share and spread the word throughout our communities!