More than 100 Vietnamese Americans took to the streets of Little Saigon in Orange County, California to protest the Trump administration’s move to deport thousands of war refugees.
After a meeting between U.S. and Vietnam representatives last week, over 8,000 Vietnamese residents who committed crimes in America will face deportation if immigration officials succeed in changing an agreement that protects their residency status.
According to the Los Angeles Times, organizers of the protest, VietRISE, said that the representatives met in Washington to renegotiate a 2008 pact that protects undocumented Vietnamese immigrants who came to the U.S. before July 12, 1995 from deportation.
Signed under President George W. Bush, the agreement was made three decades after the Vietnam War in an effort to re-establish diplomatic ties with Hanoi.
Over 9,000 Vietnamese immigrants have received a final order of removal since 1998, at least 7,000 of which were “noncitizens who during previous administrations were arrested, convicted and ultimately ordered removed by a federal immigration judge,” Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Brendan Raedy told KTLA, “The U.S. position is that every country has an international legal obligation to accept its nationals that another country seeks to remove, expel or deport.”
But protesters, who shouted “We stay together!” and “Pho-Get Trump!” during the demonstration, argued that many who face deportation — including those who committed minor crimes and already served jail time — deserve a second chance.
“Most of these immigrants entered the U.S. already deeply traumatized, right after the end of the Vietnam War. But they rebuilt their lives. And now this?” asked Tung Nguyen, founder of Asians & Pacific Islander Re-Entry of Orange County, according to the LA Times.
Hai Nguyen, whose father helped U.S. troops during the war, fears that he will be ostracized when deported to Vietnam. He was arrested for armed robbery at 16.
“They will treat me as a traitor to the country because of what my dad did,” he told KTLA. “They were considered traitors for leaving the country.”
Additionally, he has no idea about life in the Southeast Asian country.
“I will be looked down on and frowned upon. I know nothing about Vietnam.”
Currently, there are over 300,000 Vietnamese Americans and nationals living in Orange County, the largest overseas Vietnamese population. The county, once a Republican bastion, leaned Democrat in the recent midterm elections, flipping four House seats to take six of seven districts.
Despite the turnout, there are still more registered Republicans than Democrats among the county’s 100,000 voters of Vietnamese descent. Some GOP officials believe that Trump’s push to deport immigrants makes it worse for the party.
“Trump shovels more dirt on California Republicans’ grave,” Republican Assemblyman and former leader Chad Mayes said in a tweet.
Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor at the University of California, Riverside, pointed out that Vietnamese Americans were the only Asian bloc that gave Trump a favorable net rating.
“If the Republican Party has any shot at trying to win back Orange County they have to depend on Vietnamese-American voters to get it done,” Ramakrishnan told Politico, warning that there will be “significant damage” if California Republicans fail to speak out on the issue.
Images via YouTube / Nua Vong Trai Dat TV