State Sen. Ricardo Lara has called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release Cambodian immigrants who have been detained in recent months in raids throughout the Southland.
“The Trump Administration is using Cambodian immigrants as pawns in its deportation machine,” Lara, who represents the nation’s largest Cambodian community in Long Beach, said in a statement released today. “The intent of these raids is to spread fear and division through immigrant neighborhoods—the opposite of public safety. As California leaders we have worked hard to bring immigrants out of the shadows to cooperate with local law enforcement and prevent crime, and the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement turn back the clock on these efforts.”
The senator’s statement comes nearly a month after County Supervisor Janice Hahn called for similar actions in a letter sent to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine C. Duke.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal followed suit just weeks later when he announced on November 9 that, in a letter, he and five House colleagues urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to explain the detention spike. The Congress members also brought up concerns of reports of detentions of pre-1995 arrivals from Vietnam even though the U.S. has had a repatriation agreement in effect since 2008 that protects these individuals.
“It is troubling to see one of the biggest roundups of Southeast Asian refugees in recent memory happening during the first year of this Administration,” the Congress members’ letter read. “Our constituents and families across the country should not be used as political pawns while the U.S. works out diplomatic disputes.”
The detention of these refugees is rumored to be a result of ongoing disagreements between the United States and Cambodia. The hostility between both countries has resulted in visa denials for high-ranking Cambodians looking to travel to the U.S. on business or tourism as part of a pressure campaign to increase deportations.
Lara’s office said that nearly 100 Cambodian immigrants nationwide have been detained as well.
ICE officials have denied that such detentions are the result of a perceived hostile relationship between both countries, instead claiming that Cambodia is now accepting some of the multiple orders of removal hence why it would seem like such detentions were sudden.
In early November, the civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles filed a lawsuit challenging the raids and arrests made by ICE.