by Mike Liu
The film, Sentenced Home is a quietly powerful film that explores the human side of the issue of Cambodian (Khmer) deportations. In looking at why and how three young Cambodian men from Seattle become ensnared by Home Land Security, it exposes the irrationality, spitefulness and injustice in our immigration policies.
Many Uch Kim Ho Ma, and Loeun Lun had each been caught up in the judicial system in their youth. They had served jail time for confrontations involving gangs or youth violence. Post-9/11 legislation, however, retroactively marked them for deportation because, at the time of their violations, they were not citizens. Their exiles loom despite each man building constructive lives in the present. Loeun Lun, for example had married and had children. Many Uch was working for a delivery service, and it was poignant to see him driving his delivery truck to regularly report to Homeland security, not knowing each time whether he would be able to leave the building.
The film follows them around Seattle, visiting their homes, a local temple, and their workplaces but, more revealing;y, goes with them to Cambodia as two of them are deported. Their confusion and decency, resourcefulness and aimlessness, alienation and relations are captured as they are manipulated by forces beyond their control.
A Homeland security spokesperson tries vainly to defend the policy, described as punishing persons who were given a golden opportunity in the US but who chose to violate the rules. In actuality, our munificent country placed them in communities where grade school youth were subject to daily violence and had few choices if they wanted to defend themselves. When they were older and could make choices (and they all had made positive choices), the US decided that they should be punished a second time. Nor was this punishment limited to the three young men, but was also delivered to their mothers, who had struggled to get them out of Cambodia, and to their families and friends.
It was a moving and highly human experience. The film had also been shown at other venues in the area, and, at each showing, they touched many people. Many Uch is now active around deportation issues and can be found at www.deportableguy.org