Trump administration moves to change immigration policy affecting Vietnamese refugees

The Trump administration is once again moving forward with plans to implement changes in U.S. immigration policy. The impact of which could see some Vietnamese refugees who came to this country to escape persecution decades ago, deported.

Last year, the Trump administration began seeking the deportation of some long-time refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and other southeast Asian countries it deemed to be violent criminal aliens. After a brief pause, those efforts have taken shape again. 

“It’s very alarming. I think we need to look at why Vietnamese refugees are here in the first place,” said Richard Konda, executive director of the San Jose-based Asian Law Alliance.

For many refugees, he said the trail from southeast Asia to the States started with a politically unpopular war -- Vietnam.

Starting in the early 1960s, and lasting until the fall of Saigon in ’75, America poured dollars and lives into stemming the flow of communism 10,000 miles from its shores. Thousands of Vietnamese loyal to the US became refugees at war’s end, and sought asylum here. Since 1995, the two countries have agreed those arriving prior to that year wouldn’t be deported.

“There was a promise made to that government to accept people who were fleeing the country because of their affiliation with the united states,” said Konda.

But the Trump administration now believes Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties, are subject to standard immigration law-meaning they are all eligible for deportation.

Officials cite security concerns, saying some of those impacted are part of the criminal element. Konda said as many as 5,000 refugees now face deportation back to Vietnam.

“In a lot of cases, for these individuals, maybe they made a mistake as a young person. It’s been years and years later. Most of these individuals have families, have children. Are u-s citizens. So this policy is really anti-family. It’s really gonna tear families apart….Now to turn their backs on those folks to me seems short sighted,” said Konda.

Some immigration attorneys are now researching possible litigation to block the Trump administration from implementing the policy shift – similar to the lawsuits over what’s been called the Muslim travel ban.