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Vietnamese immigrants deserve better from U.S.

Vietnamese immigrants deserve better from U.S.

January 7th, 2019 by The Seattle Times in Opinion Editorial

One of the darkest hallmarks of President Donald Trump's term is his effort to punish immigrants who supported Americans fighting overseas.

A recent development on this front is the administration's enthusiasm for deporting a subset of Vietnamese people who came to the United States before 1995.

Trump is seeking to deport nearly 9,000 Vietnamese nationals who have lived in the U.S. for decades. They include children fathered by U.S. soldiers and members of families traumatized by the Vietnam War, imprisonment and dislocation.

Most have criminal convictions and were ordered removed by an immigration judge. Vietnam won't take them back, so they remain here in limbo. They may continue to work and raise families while checking in regularly with immigration authorities, who may decide to lock them up for days, weeks or months.

Until there's comprehensive immigration reform, producing a system with certainty and compassion, the administration should return to allowing these Vietnamese to remain free in the U.S. after receiving the standard punishment for their crimes. It's unjust for the U.S. to randomly deport longtime residents to countries they've never known and where they may face persecution.

"They consider America their country—the country they fled doesn't exist anymore," said Phi Nguyen, a lawyer at Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta. In February, she filed a national class-action suit challenging detention after the government began holding people longer, as a prelude for deportation, even though it can't deport them.

About 1.3 million Vietnamese immigrants live in the U.S., following waves of arrivals that began during the war. The third highest concentration is in Washington, roughly tied with Florida, because of the state's early leadership in accepting war refugees.

It's hard to believe Trump is in the same party as President Gerald Ford and President George W. Bush, all of whom stepped up to help Vietnamese immigrants left without a homeland.

There's also a question of honor and reputation, when dealing with refugees from countries destabilized by America's foreign wars. How much support will the country receive next time, if it's seen as turning its back on South Vietnamese allies and their descendants, not to mention Iraqis, Afghans and their families who supported U.S. operations only to be blocked by Trump's discriminatory travel ban?

A welcoming and functional immigration system makes America stronger at home and abroad.

Policies that create division, fear and confusion—especially among those who stood by our side in foreign wars—do just the opposite.

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