ECAASU condemns the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for their terrorizing raids targeting Vietnamese and Cambodian communities. This is not the first time we have seen the United States violently ripping apart our Southeast Asian community. Between 1965 and 1973, the U.S. dropped 2.5 million bombs over Cambodia over the course of its extensive involvement in the Vietnam War. These acts of the past were unjust and inhumane, as are the terrorizing raids of today. These are just pieces of the United States’ legacy of imperialist action throughout Southeast Asia.
In the aftermath of President Donald Trump's January 26th executive order to crack down on the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, our communities have seen plans to hire 10,000 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and 5,000 border patrol officers and an increase in targeted violence from ICE. These raids have especially impacted Latinx and Southeast Asian communities. This past October, over 100 Cambodian immigrants and 95 Vietnamese immigrants were detained by ICE. Most of these immigrants are lawful permanent residents who came to the United States in the aftermath of U.S. aggression in Southeast Asia and the Khmer Rouge-orchestrated genocide.
ICE involvement has escalated in our communities. Community members have been forced to apply for citizenship, “self-deport,” or face detention after being detained. But the system of unjust immigration policies that force the deportations of Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees is just a part of how the United States continues to perpetuate acts of past and current imperialism.
The actions of ICE today are particularly alarming given that they do not fall in line with the Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) established between the U.S. and Vietnam in 1995 and 2008. Altogether, an estimated 8,500 U.S residents of Vietnamese origin currently have removal orders. In 1996, Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) expanded the definition of what types of crimes could result in deportation. Specifically, it introduced new policies where green card holders could lose their lawful permanent resident status (LPR) if they commit a crime involving moral turpitude (“CIMT”) or crime of violence. This new definition has been applied retroactively, resulting in more than 16,000 Southeast Asian Americans, many of whom were refugees fleeing the Vietnam War and Cambodian genocide, receiving orders of removal — 78 percent of which were based on old criminal records, according to the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).
The Vietnamese and Cambodian communities suffer from personal and intergenerational trauma induced by mental and physical experiences of bombings, war, and genocide in their countries. The raids against these communities not only perpetuate the violence against our communities by the United States, but also illustrates the lack of responsibility the U.S. has taken for its imperialism. The community deserves the right to space and time to heal, build, stay with family and loved ones, and thrive.
ECAASU calls upon all AAPI organizations, especially influential and predominantly East Asian organizations, to support these communities which are under attack. The current silence from our AAPI community on this issue is unacceptable.
Why do we cover and support issues which affect middle and upper income East Asian communities with more speed and depth? Why are we more hesitant when it comes to lower income, refugee, Southeast and South Asian communities?
If we wish to change the oppressive, xenophobic, and imperialist values prevalent in the United States since its inception, we must all stand together against the unjust and intimidating tactics ICE is propagating against Vietnamese and Cambodian communities. If we claim to truly fight for justice for all AAPI communities, we must help these communities when they are most vulnerable. To be an AAPI advocate or accomplice means unequivocally and equitably supporting the Southeast Asian community, specifically Vietnamese and Cambodian communities in this case.
We will not be silent. We have fought throughout history and will continue to fight back. Our communities are resilient and we will not be forgotten or ignored.
Here's what you can do:
- Please join us in denouncing the terrorizing raids and attacks on our Southeast Asian communities. Join us in signing on to this petition from calling on the Cambodian Government and Congress to act.
- If you or a loved one has a final order of removal, under ICE supervision, and ICE has notified you of a new check-in date, please contact Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus. They can help you assess the risk that you may be detained and assist you in planning for that possibility. Their number is (415) 896-1701.
- Review this online guide to help you know your rights during an ICE encounter.
- Contact an immigration attorney because you may have an avenue of relief now.
Run solely by volunteers, The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to inspire, educate, and empower those interested in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) issues.
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @ECAASU | ECAASU.org