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U.S. May Unilaterally Back Out of Repatriation Agreement with Vietnam

usa-1149896_640-300x198U.S. and Vietnam officials gathered last Monday to discuss the fate of a repatriation agreement protecting certain Vietnamese nationals from deportation, as reported by immigrants’ rights groups and several media outlets.

The memorandum of understanding, signed by both countries in 2008, defers the immediate deportation of Vietnamese immigrants who came to the United States before diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored in July 12, 1995. Should either country choose to forego renewing the agreement in January 2019, at least 8,000 Vietnamese immigrants stand to face deportation as they become subject to standard immigration law.

A large number of Vietnamese nationals who came to the U.S. during the time period covered by the agreement did so to escape the war in their home country. Doing away with the agreement, lawyers and advocates argue, would have a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of people who sought safety in the U.S.

“The original agreement for us has been tremendously important in providing humanitarian relief and protection for Vietnamese-Americans who came over as refugees,” explained Quyen Dinh from the Asian Resource Action Center.

The Trump administration has been working on deporting long-term immigrants from countries like Vietnam and Cambodia on the premise that these tend to produce “violent criminal aliens.” One move towards this goal was the White House’s unilateral reinterpretation of the agreement in 2017, claiming that it excludes people convicted of crimes, thus “enabling” the U.S. to deport the small number of otherwise protected immigrants.

Vietnamese immigrants convicted of criminal offenses have since received final deportation orders, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been arresting such immigrants during routine check-ins with the agency. The U.S. has been deporting more Vietnamese nationals through the years, peaking at 71 removals in 2017. Despite this, Vietnam has only agreed to receive a dozen repatriates.

Community organizer Anhlanh Nguyen is troubled by Trump’s decision to beef up the deportation of Vietnamese immigrants.

“It’s very disturbing to me, targeting our community, because Vietnamese Americans have contributed significantly to the vibrant, diverse, and strong communities here in Houston and in the US with so many achievements and contributions. … America is a great place for the melting pot – I feel like we’re going backward,” he said.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner agreed, celebrating the presence of the 91,000 Vietnamese immigrants in the community who he says have enriched the economic, cultural, religious, and intellectual fabric of the city.

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security or the Vietnamese embassy in Washington have thus far refused to comment.

If you, or a loved one, need any kind of assistance on an immigrant case that involves this latest development, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a consultation with Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.