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While Canada, Australia, Norway and the United Kingdom are busy welcoming refugees from Vietnam ('boat people'), the United States has turned the tide and planning to deport Vietnamese immigrants living here for more than a decade back to Vietnam.
The United States is again showing a lack of accountability and guilt for creating a situation in Vietnam that directly led to thousands of Vietnamese fleeing their country. About 1500 Vietnamese immigrants have been given their final deportation orders. We know the story of one of them that could have qualified for a stay of order had the DREAM Act passed last year:
“We came over here, we stay out of trouble. It’s been 10 years already, but we still haven’t gotten our freedom,” says Minh about those who fled Vietnam after the war. Born in 1978, he and his aging grandmother stayed in Saigon, unable to physically or financially leave after the war ended. Reunited with his father at age 13, Minh faced mistreatment and violence, and ran away a year later. He wandered as a street child into Laos, Cambodia, and finally Thailand. There, finding others in a Vietnamese refugee camp, he and four other men escaped on a South Korean export ship headed out of Southeast Asia in 1994. Year after year at sea, Minh was denied entrance into other Southeast Asian countries, Australia and Japan. Finally, on March 2, 1997, Minh and his four friends arrived in Anchorage, thinking they had a chance at freedom. Unfortunately, in 1997, the United States had closed its doors. By the end of the year, all refugee-processing centers across the world closed, leaving the men nowhere else to turn. Minh was incarcerated in immigration custody upon arrival in the United States. Months later, he finally saw a judge. Despite three years at sea and fear of returning to his violent home, he was denied political asylum, issued a deportation order and held in a detention center in eastern Washington for one year. Since the United States could not physically deport him – no repatriation agreement with Vietnam existed at the time – he was released under an “order of supervision.” Since 1997, he has had to report regularly to immigration authorities, unsure of his fate. Minh, who works in construction and has paid his taxes annually, will never realize his dream of becoming a U.S. citizen. He must return to a country he fled at 13.
Such is the reality of United States immigration policies that one can grow up here American, and at some point, be told to return to a country that s/he barely knows. Instead of being able to fulfill their dreams, Minh, along with other Vietnamese immigrants living here, now face the nightmare of returning to a land they probably do not consider home.
Something is very wrong with this picture.