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Rise in Cambodians facing deportation from US

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:

More than 100 Cambodian refugees convicted of crimes in the United States faced deportation this year, according to a report issued last week by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The report said 110 Cambodians living in the US faced deportation during the 2018 fiscal year, up from 29 during the 2017 fiscal year.

US President Donald Trump issued an executive order to enhance public safety in the US, which set forth immigration enforcement and removal priorities, the ICE report said.

“All the countries with newly-issued visa sanctions have greater removals in fiscal year 2018 than in fiscal year 2017,” it said.

The US Department of Homeland Security is set to deport 46 Cambodian refugees convicted of crimes in the United States today.

Between 1975 and 2000, the US accepted 145,000 Cambodian refugees as part of an influx of Cambodians displaced by war.

The US has since begun deporting many of them convicted of crimes under a deal signed between both governments.

But as the US upped its deportations of Cambodians last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen and the government pushed back, refusing to cooperate with rising deportation as hundreds were being inhumanely displaced from their families.

A tit-for-tat between the governments led to Mr Hun Sen suspending the POW/MIA program when Washington stopped issuing visas for some high-ranking officials after Cambodia refused to accept deportees from the United States following their convictions for crimes there.

However, tensions have since eased with the Cambodian government re-launching the POW/MIA programme and again accepting deportees as the US reviews the visa restrictions.

ICE spokesman Brendan Raedy said on Friday that there were 1,799 non-detained Cambodians with a final order of removal.

“Any one removed would be sent to their home country for being in the United States without lawful status,” Mr Brendan said.

Prok May Odum, spokesman for General Identification Department, said that he was unaware of the 110 Cambodian returnees set to be deported.

“When they arrive here, we will produce identification cards, and birth certificates for them,” Mr May Udom said.

Bill Herod, spokesman for the Khmer Vulnerability Aid Organization, said in an email that the organisation has assisted in resettling 669 Cambodian deported from the US since 2002.

“Most of these individuals have arrived in groups of eight or ten, though many arrived in even smaller groups or alone,” Mr Herod said. “Working with such small numbers, we have been able to assist them in navigating the Cambodian bureaucracy to get the necessary documents, find housing and jobs, and start the process of cultural orientation.”

“In December, we expect to receive around 40 individuals in one of the largest groups we have ever encountered. This will dramatically strain our ability to provide appropriate and urgently needed services,” he said. “The cooperation and support of both the US and Cambodian governments, while much appreciated, will be inadequate to properly deal with this influx.”

Mr Herod said that working to assist returnees to adjust to their new lives in Cambodia was challenging.

“We have also seen some fail and fall victim to drugs and alcohol. Some have attempted to survive by engaging in criminal activity and are now in prison here,” he said.

“As we face such a dramatic expansion of our client base, we will try to cope by expanding our staff and services, but there will certainly be tragic consequences for some of those who come as well, of course, as for their families and loved ones in the US,” Mr Herod said.

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