Crack­down tar­gets Viet­namese im­mi­grants

Many of those af­fected have lived in U.S. for decades

The News-Times (Sunday) - - News - By Ana Rade­lat

Trang left the poverty and re­pres­sion of Viet­nam for a new life in Con­necti­cut in the late 1980s, but soon ran into trou­ble.

In his late teens, Trang fell in with the wrong group of youths and was ar­rested with sev­eral oth­ers for break­ing into a home and bur­glar­iz­ing it.

He served time in prison, but straight­ened out his life af­ter he was re­leased. Now mar­ried and a fa­ther with a steady job in the Hart­ford area, Trang is very likely to be de­ported to a coun­try he has largely for­got­ten be­cause of a change in fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

This month, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion pres­sured Viet­nam to up­hold a 2008 agree­ment and take back refugees like Trang who came to the United States be­fore 1995.

But many Viet­namese who came to the United States be­fore 1995 — some of them flee­ing the Viet­nam War — have lived in an im­mi­gra­tion law gray area. If they had a crim­i­nal record, they could not at­tain le­gal sta­tus — but could not be de­ported, ei­ther.

Trang’s at­tor­ney, Alex Meyerovich of Bridge­port, said Viet­namese im­mi­grants who ran afoul of the law and were de­portable would be re­quired to check in with im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials pe­ri­od­i­cally. Meyerovich shared his client’s story with the CT Mir­ror on the con­di­tion he be iden­ti­fied only by his first name.

“There was an un­der­stand­ing that (Trang) would not be sub­ject to phys­i­cal re­moval,” Meyerovich said.

But now Trang is likely to be de­tained for de­por­ta­tion at his next check in, Meyerovich said.

“He’s go­ing to take the brunt of the de­ci­sion to change pol­icy,” Meyerovich said. “And he’s a great guy who is not go­ing to ever again get into trou­ble.”

No ties to old coun­tries

Crimes that put Viet­namese res­i­dents at risk for de­por­ta­tion range from dis­tri­bu­tion of nar­cotics and sex­ual as­sault to pos­ses­sion of mar­i­juana. More than 7,000 Viet­namese have be­come sud­denly de­portable un­der the new pol­icy.

Im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates ar­gue that in some cases, the con­vic­tions are for petty crimes, many the re­sult of youth­ful in­dis­cre­tions. Oth­ers, like Trang, who com­mit­ted more se­ri­ous of­fenses, have been re­ha­bil­i­tated and, over the decades, have be­come solid mem­bers of their U.S. com­mu­ni­ties.

“A lot of these peo­ple have no ties to their orig­i­nal coun­try,” said Wayne Chap­ple, an im­mi­gra­tion lawyer in Hart­ford.

There’s an­other con­cern, one that prompted the for­mer United States am­bas­sador to Viet­nam, Ted Osius, to leave the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion last year af­ter he was sud­denly re­as­signed.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion wanted an am­bas­sador ap­pointed by Trump in place, rather than one who had op­posed him on this is­sue of de­por­ta­tions,” Osi- us told the Huff­in­g­ton Post.

To Osius, the de­por­ta­tion ef­fort is a bro­ken prom­ise to South Viet­namese fam­i­lies who had been al­lies of the United States dur­ing the war and would not be safe in Viet­nam.

But to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, the de­por­ta­tions are part of a larger plan to rid the na­tion of im­mi­grants who have com­mit­ted crimes.

Katie Wald­man, spokes­woman for the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, said in a state­ment that “it’s a pri­or­ity of this ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­move crim­i­nal aliens to their home coun­try.”

“In gen­eral, the ef­fect of this has sown fear and dis­trust in the Viet­namese com­mu­nity,” said Michelle Ross, chair of the Con­necti­cut chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion. “In essence, the U.S. gov­ern­ment has de­cided to change a pol­icy that it has had for decades.”

Viet­namese im­mi­grants lean Repub­li­can when they vote. Two GOP law­mak­ers who have large Viet­namese pop­u­la­tions in their states, Reps. Ed Royce of Cal­i­for­nia and Michael McCaul of Texas, sent a let­ter to Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen that said they were “deeply con­cerned by re­ports of a new Ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy to de­port cer­tain Viet­namese-Amer­i­cans who have lived in the United States for longer than 23 years.”

A ‘vir­tual wall’

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau, there are about 11,000 Viet­namese liv­ing in Con­necti­cut.

But the move to de­port some of them shows how com­mit­ted the Trump ad- min­is­tra­tion is to cre­at­ing a “vir­tual” wall against im­mi­grants, both le­gal and il­le­gal, as the pres­i­dent fights to build a real wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, im­mi­grant ac­tivists say.

Be­sides roundups and de­por­ta­tions of those who have en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has slowed or halted many seek­ing to come to the United States for a job of­fer or through a re­la­tion­ship to a ci­ti­zen.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has also made it more dif­fi­cult for refugees or asy­lum seek­ers to gain en­try to the United States.

The year is end­ing with the ad­min­is­tra­tion say­ing those seek­ing asy­lum would be forced to wait in Mex­ico and could not press a claim un­less they show up at a port of en­try.

That means those who en­tered the U.S. il­le­gally could not ap­ply for asy­lum, a re­ac­tion to car­a­vans of mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­ica.

But last Fri­day, the U.S. Supreme Court up­held a lower court rul­ing that de­ter­mined fed­eral law does not al­low the pres­i­dent to make such changes.

The law said asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions must be ac­cepted from any alien “phys­i­cally present in the United States or who ar­rives in the United States whether or not at a des­ig­nated port of ar­rival . . . ir­re­spec­tive of such alien’s sta­tus.”

“We are thrilled to hear that the Supreme Court has pre­vented the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion from uni­lat­er­ally rewrit­ing the na­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion laws by re­strict­ing the places where mi­grants could ask for asy­lum,” said Juan Her­nan­dez, vice pres­i­dent of 32BJ of the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union in Con­necti­cut. “This at­tempt to re­write our na­tion’s asy­lum poli­cies is one more sign of the ex­treme lengths that this ad­min­is­tra­tion is go­ing to per­se­cute all im­mi­grants.”

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