Cambodian American Returns to the U.S. After Deportation Mistake 5 Years Ago
A Cambodian American man has returned to his home in California five years after self-deporting to Cambodia in response to alleged threats from federal agents who had no clue of his U.S. citizenship.
Sok Loeun, 35, was convicted of possessing marijuana in 2012 — a felony that initiated the revocation of his legal residency status.
The JRC and it’s member org. the Asian Prisoners Support Committee with friends, allies, and Sok Leung family were at SFO international terminal to welcome Sok home from Cambodia after he was mistakenly deported from the US five years ago. Welcome home Sok Leung #Right2Reunitepic.twitter.com/slz0pnmJI1
Loeun’s mother, a refugee from the Khmer Rouge, migrated to the U.S. in 1985 and received her American citizenship in 1996.
Under derivative citizenship, Loeun, who was 12 at the time, automatically became a U.S. citizen, but the staff at the former Immigration and Naturalization Service — now the Department of Homeland Security — allegedly failed to change his official record.
Unfortunately, neither Loeun nor his mother were aware of derivative citizenship. As a result, Loeun lived under legal residency (which the family obtained as refugees) most of his life.
“[It’s] very understandable that foreign nationals themselves wouldn’t know whether they had acquired citizenship, especially if they have other IDs and they’re able to get by with those other IDs and they haven’t been doing a lot of traveling,” Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “[Immigration agencies have also had] a huge issue with the transfer of paperwork records to digital.”
On Wednesday, Loeun arrived at San Francisco International Airport to a warm welcome from family and friends. He is now in the process of reintegrating into American society.
A petition that calls for the amendment of the repatriation agreement between the U.S. and Cambodia can be signed here.