A coalition of Khmer-American and immigration groups staged a rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, this week to protest the pending deportations of several Cambodian-Americans to the Kingdom.
The deportations are carried out under a 2002 agreement that allows the US to deport Cambodian-Americans who have been convicted of felonies and who lack US citizenship. Holding placards reading “stop deporting Cambodian refugees”, dozens gathered on the street in the US city on Wednesday.
“This is not about sending criminals back,” said organiser Kosol Sek, president of Cambodian refugee support group IKARE, in an online video. “This is about people that have already served [their sentences]. They’ve already been released back to build a family.”
Sek said 20 Cambodian-Americans currently faced deportation in Minnesota, including Sameth Nhean, Posy Chheng, Ched Nin, Phoeuy Chuon, Chamroeun Phan and Chan Om, who were detained when attending an immigration check late last month.
Each has lived in America since childhood, arriving as refugees after the Khmer Rouge were overthrown in 1979.
The treaty allows Cambodians living in the US to be deported to Cambodia and barred from re-entering America for crimes ranging from drunk driving to murder. As of last year, there were a total of 467 deportees; most had never stepped foot in Cambodia since leaving.
The convictions of many of those in the most recent group are more than a decade old, according to online petitions advocating their release.
In one petition, Sovanna Leng, the brother of Chan Om, wrote that the family’s world had been turned “upside down” by the decision. Reached yesterday Sophea Phea, one of the deportees now in Cambodia, said the policy had devastating consequences. “It rips families apart,” she said.
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton