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US judge nixes Cambodians’ deportation

Ven Rathavong / Khmer Times Share:
Three of the nine deportees make their way out of Phnom Penh International Airport last December after their flight from the US. KT/Mai Vireak

A US district judge, in a ruling on Thursday, has blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to immediately deport 92 Cambodian citizens still in custody in the US.  The deportees had been previously convicted of criminal charges, ordered deported, released from immigration custody (Cambodia refused to repatriate them), only to be rearrested years later.

According to a Reuters report on Saturday, US District Judge Cormac Carney (Santa Ana, California) ruled that the Cambodian citizens are not to be deported before they have been given opportunity to have the legality of their convictions and deportations re-evaluated in court; they may raise “serious questions.”

He wrote: “It is disingenuous for the Government to claim that throughout the many years that Petitioners were permitted to live and work on supervised release, they should not have built up any expectation that they would be permitted to remain in the country.”

Judge Carney ruled that they must not be deported until their case has been heard in January.

This is not the first instance of petitioners filing for a stay of removal until they had challenged their deportation orders and a district court order prevented their deportation.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project, who represents the Cambodians, said that three other US judges have issued similar rulings stopping the government from quickly deporting immigrants who have long lived in the country.  Those rulings involved Iraqis, Indonesians and Somalians.

Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said,  “We welcome the US  judge’ s decision … [it] has rendered to our Cambodian compatriots fairness and justice on the basis of both US laws, the universal principles of human rights as well humanitarian values.”

He went on, “The US judge’s decision proves clearly that the visa restriction imposed on Sept. 13, 2017 … on senior officials of Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for ‘delaying the repatriation process’ is unreasonable, unfair and even counter US laws.”

“We take this auspicious opportunity to renew our appeal to the US to lift its visa restriction in order to pave the way for the resumption of the excellent bilateral cooperation on MIA.”

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