FALLS CHURCH, Va. (FOX 5 DC/KTVU) - There are growing concerns for Vietnamese immigrants nationwide and in the Washington, D.C. area as the Trump administration could reportedly move toward deporting Vietnamese immigrants once protected under a previous agreement.
The agreement shielded Vietnam War refugees who came to the US to escape persecution before July 1995.
Last year, the Trump administration began seeking the deportation of some long-time refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and other southeast Asian countries it deemed to be violent criminal aliens. After a brief pause, those efforts have taken shape again.
Beginning in the early 1960s, and lasting until the fall of Saigon in 1975, America poured dollars and lives into stemming the flow of communism 10,000 miles from its shores.
Thousands of Vietnamese loyal to the US became refugees at the war’s end and sought asylum here.
Many of the Vietnamese who fled their home country settled in Fairfax County, which is now home to one of the largest Vietnamese communities on the East Coast.
The two countries have had an agreement that those arriving prior to 1995 wouldn't be deported, until now. The Trump administration believes Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties are subject to standard immigration law, meaning they are all eligible for deportation.
"In a lot of cases, for these individuals, maybe they made a mistake as a young person. It's been years and years later. Most of these individuals have families, have children, are US citizens. So this policy is really anti-family. It's really going to tear families apart,” Richard Konda, executive director with the Asian Law Alliance told FOX 5 DC's sister station KTVU. “Now to turn their backs on those folks to me seems short-sighted.”
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said there are 7,000 convicted criminals from Vietnam with final orders for removal. These are Vietnamese immigrants who were arrested during previous administrations and ultimately ordered to be removed by a federal judge.
Some immigration attorneys are now researching possible litigation to block the Trump administration from implementing the policy shift – similar to the lawsuits over what’s been called the Muslim travel ban.
FOX 5 DC’s sister station KTVU contributed to this report from Oakland, California.