LB Press Telegram article on Cambodian deportation advocacy and activism
- LB Press Telegram article on Cambodian deportation advocacy and activism
Date: 11/18/2002 2:13:13 PM Pacific Standard Time
KGA friends and allies:
This morning, KGA staff returned from a national conference on Cambodian
deportation energized and focused on building a national/international
Southeast Asian movement! Southeast Asians and allied youth and adults
gathered for a 2-day grassroots conference in Washington, D.C. to share our
work and to begin visioning/strategizing short and long-term goals as a
unified community (advocacy, organizing, service, etc.). KGA's local
organizing work will be fueled by the passion, investment and struggle of
this powerful, emerging multi-generational Southeast Asian Movement. It was
a beautiful thing to experience the mutual respect between young and elder
community leaders. When the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM)
showed their documentary, "We Shall Not Be Moved," the audience sat still in
awe of the young organizers' passion and will to see justice prevail. As
Southeast Asians build a movement based on respect, solidarity, and a long
history of resistance, struggle, and survival, this largest growing pop. of
asians in the U.S. continue to rise up faster than most mainstream folk care
to notice. For more progressive folks (you), support this movement and keep
your eyes peeled!
Future updates to come...
Long Beach Press Telegram, Saturday, November 16, 2002
Cambodian communities lobby Immigration: Activists assert felons deported
under new policy may face danger in homeland.
By Bill Hillburg From our Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Cambodian-American activists from Long Beach and other
large Khmer communities on Friday launched a four-day lobbying campaign
and conference that seeks to halt controversial deportations of
convicted felons to Cambodia.
"Cambodia is not a safe place for these people," said Him Chhim,
executive director of the Cambodia Association of America in Long Beach
and a leading critic of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's new
deportation policy. He cited reports of deportees being jailed upon
their arrival in Cambodia and also criticized the inclusion of persons
convicted of nonviolent felonies.
"We agree with the U.S., and violent criminals should be deported,"
Chhim said. "But there are also people being deported for offenses like
shoplifting and drunk driving. We also want to stop deportations until
we are sure the people will be properly treated."
Vunyaung Tan, political counselor for the Cambodian Embassy in
Washington, D.C., denied that deportees were being mistreated.
"They are free to go when they arrive and have the same rights as all
Cambodian citizens to live and work where they please," he said. "These
human rights concerns are just rumors."
Tan said his government agrees with Cambodian-American activists that
persons convicted of minor felonies should not be subjects for
deportation. He also said Cambodia was not pleased with having to accept
returning violent felons from the United States.
"The State Department and the INS put pressure on us to sign this
treaty," added Tan. "They said they would make it harder for Cambodians
to get visas to come to the U.S.'
Theary Seng, a Washington attorney and organizer of the lobbying effort,
said her fellow Cambodian-Americans are particularly at risk of
deportation because many have failed to go through the procedures to
"We were war-weary, down trodden and just happy to be alive here in a
land of freedom," said the Cambodia-born Seng, who grew up in Cerritos
and graduated from Valley Christian High School. "So many of us didn't
deal with passports and green cards.
"I believe these people face torture in Cambodia, and there should be a
blanket stop to these deportations until it can be proved otherwise,"
Chhim said that Benson Pheng, director of the Long Beach-Phnom Penh
Sister City Program, would be attending the conference. Three members of
the Long Beach youth group Khmer Girls in Action/Hope will also be
Most legal and undocumented immigrant felons have faced deportation
since the enactment of a 1996 reform law. Cambodian-Americans were not
immediately included because of concerns over human rights and political
unrest in Cambodia. That policy changed in March, when the U.S. and
Cambodia signed a deportation treaty that included pledges of humane
To date, 27 Cambodian-Americans have been deported and an estimated
1,500 felons are await ing deportation in INS detention centers at
Terminal Island and other locations. Chhim said he had heard of cases
involving detainees and deportees from Long Beach, home of the nation's
largest Cambodian-American community, but he had no specific details on
Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Carson, who will represent Long
Beach's Cambodian-American community in the next Congress, is pressing
for passage next year of the Family Reunification Act, which would
greatly curtail deportations of legal permanent U.S. residents.
"I am opposed to the forced removal of Cambodians to a country where
they and members of their families suffered violence and torture,' said
Millender-McDonald. "Many of them and their relatives supported the
United States during the Vietnam War and may face severe repercussions
if sent back.'
"A lot of these people were born in the refugee camps in Thailand," said
Chhim. "They've never lived in Cambodia and they don't speak Khmer. It
would be very hard for them to survive in a country that is totally
foreign to them."
Activists will be plotting strategy this weekend and will canvas Capitol
Hill on Monday to meet with House and Senate members and staffers.
The conference also includes a contingent from Lowell, Mass., a Boston
suburb that is home to the nation's second-largest Cambodian-American
community. Many Lowell residents have family ties to Long Beach.
As of the 2000 Census, Lowell had 17,301 Cambodian-American residents
out of a total population of 107,000. Local leaders estimate the actual
number at 30,000. The Internet site for the Cambodian- American League
of Lowell includes a link to the Press-Telegram's Web site.
The 2000 Census reported Long Beach's Cambodian-American population as
17,393 and the total for Southern California at 36,233. Long Beach
community leaders, who claim a massive undercount by the Census Bureau,
estimate the city's actual Cambodian-American population at 40,000.
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