Poster courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.
Over 15,000 Cambodians, Vietnamese and Laotian Americans have been served deportation orders, according to the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.
For a community with the largest population of Cambodians in the world, outside of Cambodia, that statistic hits close to home. And local community organizations have pledged to do something about it.
Tonight, the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center will co-sponsor a forum titled “Not Home for the Holidays,” hosted by the Long Beach organization Khmer Girls in Action from 5:00PM to 7:00PM at the California Recreation Center at McBride Park, revolving around discussion to end deportation and the displacement of families in favor of keeping them together. Refugee families, White House Initiative on Asian American Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) representatives, Congressman Alan Lowenthal and and Councilmember Dee Andrews, whose district is home to most of the Cambodian population in Long Beach, will also be on hand to discuss issues at the forum.
Tonight, attendees will sign pledge cards to support the national movement to end deportation, as well as holiday cards that will be sent to deportees spending the holidays thousands of miles away from home.
“As we enter this turning point for our community, we call for just and fair repatriation agreements that hold participating countries accountable to the impact of deportation on families that consider the history and conditions of initial displacement and that are in compliance with international human rights law,” the Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN), another co-sponsor of the event, said in a statement.
SEAFN referred to the current U.S. repatriation agreement with Cambodia, which was signed without community consent in 2002, along with the 1996 Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). According to a release issued by Khmer Girls in Action, the repatriation agreement and these two acts have “institutionalized double punishment for the survivors of genocide and their family member who have already served time."
Khmer Girls in Action also asserts the same policies “criminalized a community who resettled with no transition support services.”
According to the organization’s figures, over 500 Cambodians who have spent most of their lives in the U.S. have been deported. The WHIAAPI states that Hmong, Cambodian and Vietnamese communities experience highest poverty rates at up to 26 percent, 18 percent and 14 percent—at or above the national poverty rate of 14 percent.
“My sister is part of the 1.5 generation—children born in refugee camps who never set foot in Cambodia,” said Sophya Chum, a founding member and current interim co-executive director at Khmer Girls in Action. “She is now facing deportation.”
Chum said growing up in the ‘90s was “tough” on her sister, with a prevalence of racial tension, gangs, violence, poverty, drugs and alcohol. “We must challenge the policies that criminalize our communities and separate our families. [...] This holiday, what our community needs is an end to displacement so we can finally heal from the trauma and be home with our families.”
The California Recreation Center at McBride Park is located at 1550 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90813.