THE United States plans to ramp up efforts to deport non-citizens who commit crimes, according to a statement released in the wake of a controversial operation last week involving the deportation of five Cambodians.
The five who arrived in the Kingdom on Thursday brought to 234 the number of Cambodians who have been deported from the US as the result of a bilateral repatriation agreement signed in 2002.
All the deportees are former legal permanent residents in the US who have served prison sentences or been given suspended sentences for aggravated felonies, a classification that was expanded in 1996 to include some crimes that were previously misdemeanours.
According to an article on the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website on Friday, the five Cambodians were part of a group of 98 deported “immigration violators” who were transported to six Asian countries on a chartered flight.
“This year, ICE expects to remove a record number of criminal aliens from the country, and charter flights like this are a big part of making that happen,” ICE director John Morton was quoted as saying in the article.
“The United States welcomes law-abiding immigrants, but foreign nationals who violate our laws and commit crimes in our communities should be on notice that ICE is going to use all its resources to find you and send you home,” Morton said.
Activists decried the latest round of deportations, which sparked protests and a petition in the US last week, as well as concern from rights groups in Cambodia.
Loeuth Sim, a 43-year-old who arrived in the Kingdom on Thursday, said yesterday that although he had been deported for the seemingly minor crime of “fighting with people a little bit”, he was happy to be here. “I didn’t do time, they just gave me five years’ suspended and five years’ probation,” he said.
He said he had arrived in the US as a 12-year-old refugee and had not been back since. “I’m happy they sent me back,” he said. “This is my home.”