By John Lam
Children who immigrated to America and later acquired a criminal record will likely be deported under Donald J. Trump’s administration, a potential deportee says.
“We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” Trump has said. His administration will “get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers… probably two million, it could be even three million (people).”
Concern is expressed in a New York Times op-ed by Lundy Khoy, an immigrant. “I’m not a gang member. I’m not a drug dealer. But I have a criminal record and I’m afraid.
“I am not an American citizen, but there is no way I am not an American,” Khoy added in the Nov. 24 op-ed.
“I arrived in the United States on Nov. 12, 1981, when I was 1. My parents fled the Pol Pot genocide in Cambodia, in which over two million people were murdered. I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand before moving to California.”
His brother and sister, who were born here, are citizens. Khoy described the three of them as typical American kids; eating Cheerios, going to Disneyland and watching the Fourth of July fireworks.
“In the spring of 2000 … I was carrying seven tablets of Ecstasy (when) I was arrested for possession with intent to sell, which is a felony in Virginia.”
Khoy pleaded guilty, and was given a four-year suspended sentence.
In 2004 he was arrested at a probation office by an officer from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“I am not an American citizen, but there is no way I am not an American”
He was told his conviction meant he would most likely be deported.
“For me this was a second punishment for the very same crime, and this one, though never discussed or even mentioned three years earlier when I pleaded guilty, was worse than the first.”
The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SARAC) states that people facing deportation to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam often share similar experiences as refugee children. Around 65 to 85 percent of deportation orders to these countries are because of old criminal convictions.
“If I was deported, I would be sent to Cambodia. But I had never even been to Cambodia!” Khoy added.
After being held for nine months in detention, Khoy was released under supervision.
“I returned once again to college and started working at a university as an enrollment counselor. I married and had a son,” Khoy said.
Last year he received a pardon from the governor of Virginia that mentioned his “commitment to good citizenship.”
“But immigration law is separate from criminal law, and my record still exists. Even though the state has forgiven my crime, the federal government could still decide to deport me.
“I implore Mr. Trump and his supporters to look past my mistakes. I’ve lived my entire life: as an American.”
According to SARAC, “Because of unusual repatriation agreements between the U.S. and Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, thousands of people remain in the U.S. for years or even decades with final orders of removal, never knowing when they might be deported.”
For more information regarding criminal deportation, write to: Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, 1628 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009 or call (202) 601-2968.