A June report by Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) argued that tax dollars should be spent on the wellbeing of US communities, including immigrant integration, rather than on the criminalisation and mass incarceration of immigrants and ripping families apart.
The report said that from 2017 to 2018, the Cambodian American refugee community suffered a 279 per cent increase in deportations.
Inside the Numbers: How Immigration Shapes Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities provides demographic data on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) ethnic groups, discusses immigration pathways and offers an analysis of current issues and policy recommendations.
“Since 2015, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] has arrested nearly 15,000 immigrants from Asia. As of June 2018, nearly 5,000 Asian immigrants, including asylum seekers, were in detention,” the report said.
It said that approximately 92 per cent of Cambodian American immigrant seniors are limited in English proficiency, which impacts on their ability to access critical services.
The report acknowledged that the US has led the global initiative to accept refugees and asylum seekers by raising quotas during periods of international conflict.
“Recognising the Vietnam War’s devastating human impact, Congress passed the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act in 1975, which allocated funds for refugees to be transported to the US and for social and rehabilitation services for resettled individuals."
“The impact was immediate – between 1975 and 1980, approximately 300,000 Southeast Asian refugees entered the US,” it said.
But in 2017, the Trump administration escalated enforcement against multiple Asian refugee communities.
The report continues: “In October 2017 alone, ICE arrested approximately 100 Cambodian American community members, the largest raids ever to target this community.
“By comparison, prior to the October raids, ICE had detained 500 Cambodian Americans since 2002.”
From 2015 to last year, the report said, a total of 572 Cambodian immigrants were arrested by ICE.
The Trump administration issued visa sanctions against Cambodia and several other countries in September 2017 for refusing to accept forced returns of their nationals.
One month later, ICE conducted raids in Cambodian American refugee communities, detaining around 100 individuals for purposes of deportation.
In April last year, ICE deported 43 Cambodian Americans – the largest group ever to be deported in one day since the repatriation of Cambodian nationals began over a decade previously – and on December 17, 36 Cambodian refugees were deported on a single flight.
“About 1,900 Cambodian Americans in the US have final orders of removal and are at immediate risk of deportation. AAPI immigrants make great contributions to the economy, but some continue to struggle. Nearly three-quarters of Asian American businesses are immigrant-owned, numbering over 1.1 million businesses,” the report said.
The AAJC website says the organisation advocates “for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all”.
“Curtailing the due process rights of immigrants demonstrates cruelty and disregard for civil and human rights and strikes fear into immigrant communities,” the report said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the Cambodian government should have been able to persuade the US not to adopt such a ruthless deportation policy.
He said the emigrants did not have a normal upbringing, coming from families that had been uprooted by war and communism – for which the US was partially responsible. The deportees were nurtured by US society, Mong Hay said.
“Though they have Cambodian roots, they have been in America all their lives. So America is entirely responsible for those people’s misbehaviour, not Cambodia."
“It is utterly unethical for mighty America to dump those bad guys in tiny Cambodia and force it to look after what is very much a product of American society,” he said.
He said the Cambodian government should use these arguments to refuse to take more deportees, to negotiate a deal or, failing that, to get the US to pay the full cost of their settlement and rehabilitation in the Kingdom.