Around 70 Cambodians living in the U.S. will be deported this month, the first group of which could be out before the holidays.
The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) believes the removal will be carried out in two “batches”. Executive Director Quyen Dinh told the Voice of America:
“We condemn the deportation of refugees and the separation of families. This heartless move by both the U.S. and Cambodian governments to terrorize people right before the holidays is deplorable.”
The organization also believes that at least 200 Cambodians will be deported in 2018, noting it as “the largest group to ever be deported in one year in both U.S. and Cambodian history.”
The move of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is part of its ongoing crackdown against aliens with deportation orders. More than 100 Cambodians have been arrested recently, most of whom received such orders for having criminal records.
Many of those who survived the tyranny of the Khmer Rouge struggled with living in America. Chum Bun Rong, Cambodia’s ambassador to the U.S., told VOA:
“War and genocide had caused so much damage to the families. They continued to struggle on [U.S.] soil, and dealing with trauma might cause people to commit crimes.”
However, the majority have been under supervision, checking-in with the ICE regularly. Their past crimes, associated with “poverty and youth,” have no relevance to their current lives, Dinh said previously.
The news of the looming deportation also comes as the Trump administration announced restriction of visas for Cambodians “undermining democracy” in their country. This is a “direct response” to the dissolution of the nation’s main opposition party, arrest of its leader Kem Sokha, banning of officials from politics, restrictions on civil society, and “suppression of independent media,” the Phnom Penh Post noted.
Cambodia has since been labeled “recalcitrant” for not taking deportees back. For this reason, the US also imposed visa restrictions in September, citing Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which says that “due to a particular country’s refusal to accept or unreasonably delay the return of its nationals, the Secretary of State must order consular officers to suspend issuing visas until informed by the Secretary of Homeland Security that the country in question has accepted the individuals.”
The ICE has not commented about the deportations.