A Vietnamese man in Southern California has reportedly filed a suit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for allegedly trying to deport him three times since 2019.
An Thanh Nguyen, whose family fled the Vietnam War, arrived in the U.S. at the age of 17 and became a legal permanent resident.
Traumatized by war and bullied at school for his inability to speak English at the time, Nguyen eventually developed a criminal history. In 1993, he helped commit multiple armed robberies, which led him to spend 26 years in prison.
Nguyen was released in October 2019, but his freedom was short-lived as ICE took him into custody. It was the first time the agency tried to deport him.
Vietnam refused to take Nguyen, and he was eventually allowed to return to his family in Cypress; however, ICE struck once again in March 2020 just as COVID-19 began raging across the U.S. and held him in detention.
Nguyen’s lawyers won his release after making the case that his asthma made him more vulnerable to the coronavirus. U.S. District Court Judge Terry Hatter then ordered that Nguyen could not be detained again without the court’s permission.
Nguyen was shaken when ICE detained him for a third time in July 2020. The agency, he said, lured him to an office in Los Angeles under the guise of having to remove his ankle monitor.
“They tricked me to come and then they put me back in detention to deport me,” Nguyen said, as per LAist. “I told [the officer] I had a court order to prevent me from being deported. But ICE did not listen to me, did not care.”
Nguyen’s lawyers immediately intervened. Hours later, Judge Hatter ordered his release and found the ICE in contempt of court, according to Law360.
Nguyen, now 48 and working as a forklift operator, has decided to sue the agency. He is represented by attorney Jenny Zhao of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (AAAJ-ALC), which focuses on helping low-income immigrants at risk of deportation due to criminal convictions.
In California, deportations for cases like Nguyen’s may be prevented through the pending VISION Act, which would ensure that an incarcerated immigrant eligible for release would not be turned over to ICE and would instead be reunited with their family and community.
“I am filing a complaint against ICE, because they violated my human rights. My entire family went through emotional stress. That is why I support the #VISIONAct — I want to make sure ICE no longer violates the rights of immigrants and refugees like myself,” Nguyen said in a press conference on Tuesday.
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VietRISE, an organization dedicated to advancing social justice for low-income Vietnamese and immigrant communities in Orange County, launched an online petition urging Newsom to pardon Nguyen. As of this writing, the campaign has collected 1,674 out of 3,200 signatures.
Featured Image via KGUN9